The Electric State, by Simon Stalenhag

Posted: December 15, 2020 in Chat
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The Electric State, by Simon Stalenhag. Published by Skybound Books, 2019. ISBN-10 : 1501181416

Simon Stalenhag is a Swedish artist and concept creator.
He began his career creating photo-painting images of rural Swedish landscapes, dotted with defunct machinery, but he scaled up the machinery. So what you get are huge derelict machines littering ordinary landscapes.

His work became central to the Netflix TV series, Tales From The Loop. The series is maybe like an updated take on A Town Called Eureka, but without the central actor-characters.
No, perhaps the likeness to that series is so minimal to be inconsequential.
He produced two book works on this central concept. The Loop is an underground particle collider.

The Electric State does not have the saccharine quality of that TV series.
It is a novel, and graphic novel.
We see here again the huge machines littering the landscape, but this time centred on southern California. The concept and story-line is of a post-War 111 setting, where huge drones and android-type machines were the fighting forces.
The destroyed now litter the desert, town, urban and rural landscapes. We see huge destroyed androids slumped in abandoned barns, strangely humanoid. It is very, very eerie.
Through this landscape The Girl, a young woman, travels. She escaped her adoptive parents, rescued her brother, and together travel across to the coast and a supposed safe haven.

The population has been decimated, and the survivors have turned to using neurocasters, virtual reality headsets. Only, these headsets, big, duck-billed things, are fed by transmitters, and feed-back from mental states of other wearers. They create a virtual community. It takes over their lives. Her adoptive mother fell into the pool and drowned wearing her headset; to deal with his grief, her husband turned once again to the headset. It gets to the point when not many live long without their headset.

We later see huge wandering neurotransmitters followed by hoards of devotees; they wander aimlessly, until the people collapse through exhaustion. Dead devotees also litter the landscapes.

For the more nerdy types of readers, Simon also incorporates several actual maps of the areas the book covers, so we can follow the journey. I admit that I did.

The book is a graphic novel.
It does not, though, follow a perzine mode in any way.
The graphics are very high standard, the text spare, and the story-line pieces together cumulatively,
And what is especially enjoyable is that not all the narrative is in the text, there are sequences of graphics that explore aspects of the story that are not narrated. Likewise with the text and graphics do not mirror, but have a more nuanced relationship.
This is a book to return to. Details in the pictures, and connections in the narrrative, reveal themselves slowly.

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