Friday, September 09, 2022

Aldo by Yannick Pelegrin

Some stories are difficult to talk about because you don't want to give things away. Even saying "there's a twist" will change the experience, because then the reader will be waiting for that twist.

I may have said too much already. But that's why I'm going to try to be vague about Yannick Pelegrin's 2018 bande dessinee Aldo.

We meet Aldo at his therapist's office: it doesn't seem to be the first time he's been there, but he's still in the "tell me the basic details of your life" stage. Aldo's internal dialogue is honest: he's immortal, having been struck at the age of twenty-eight for three hundred years, for reasons he doesn't know. All of his family is long dead. He's not close to anyone. He doesn't tell the therapist this, but walks out instead.

We don't know what he does for a living. We don't really get a sense of his everyday life; the book is all in Aldo's head and focused on how he sees and lives in the world.

There are occasionally vignette pages, wordless, that break up the story Aldo is telling the reader. They could fit his least at first.

He has a dog, Gustav, that he claims he's just dog-sitting for a friend, Oscar. And he goes to visit Oscar, the dog in tow - but Oscar is an old man, uncommunicative, in some kind of residential hospital or old-age home far out in the countryside. Aldo implies that he and Oscar were great friends, presumably some years ago when Oscar was young and Aldo was exactly the same age...and we see Gustav in some of those flashbacks.

If they are flashbacks.

Aldo goes on from there, heavily narrated by the main character, all about the weighty burden of being immortal in a world of mayflies - if you've read any SF, you know the drill.

Aldo sees something unexpected, takes a long journey to investigate - but the true journey of Aldo is entirely internal. And, as I implied at the beginning, there will be a twist.

This was Pelegrin's first book; he created it while in college studying how to make comics and published a revised version soon after graduation. We expect the young to take old stories and standard ideas, to build new on them - that much is expected. I don't entirely buy the ending, but it's set up well and Pelerin does play fair with the audience. This is an interesting, gnarly book that takes some well-worn ideas and uses them in different ways; I appreciate and like that about it. And I expect Pelerin will continue to make stories like this for a long time, which will also be a good thing.

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