Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s graphic novel, Decelerate Blue, published by First Second couldn’t have been released at a more opportune time. Dystopian stories are seeing a renewed rise in interest lately, of which I personally believe can be thanked to the U.S.’s current political state of affairs. Just last month, Amazon reported a rise in sales for George Orwell’s book titled 1984. The seventy-year old novel became the website’s number one top seller for several days following President Trump’s inauguration and subsequent “alternative-facts” regarding Sean Spicer’s claims of having the “largest audience” of any other U.S. inauguration.
Timing aside, Rapp and Cavallaro have produced a fine piece of fiction which can stand on its own. The story revolves around a fifteen-year old girl, Angela, struggling with the fast-paced, consumer-driven world that she has grown up in. In this futuristic world, people busy themselves with all manners of distraction: Mall trips, advertisements around every corner, constant consumerism, and even increasing their own heartrates while the government is able to move on its own with little disruption. The only real concern for the people is protecting your “Guarentee,” seemingly a status symbol that marks you as belonging in this “go-go” world. If the tradeoff is being able to live in relative comfort, most people are glad to accept the “Go Guarantee, Go” doctrine.
The opening scene shows Angela sitting down to family dinner as her parents discuss their flavorless and non-consequential day, throwing around buzz words like “hyper” and “accelerate.” As Angela expresses a dissatisfaction with the “Megamail” and the “really hyper movies” that run around fourteen-minutes long, her parents are concerned with her dissention.
As the female protagonist finds herself eventually in an underground colony of individuals who have decided to go “off-grid,” matters take on a new shade of dire for the future. In comparison to the “fastness” of the upper-world, the underground dissenters hold dear the ideals of slowness, of meditation, of slow breathing, and of living simply; everything that the “Guarantee Committee” speaks out against.
At first, the art style and dialogue of the graphic novel threw me off. The simple black-and-white drawings with little detailing looked to me as lazy. Though as the story unfolded, I realized that the art was rather intentional. The fast-paced future in Rapp’s story prided itself with being succinct and efficient. Citizens were instructed to keep their sentences short and to the point, encouraging the use of contractions such as “can’t” instead of the slightly longer “cannot”, and avoiding as much as possible the use of adverbs. The art reflects this “to the point” attitude, being as efficient as it can to tell the story. There are panels where we are shown Cavallaro’s real artistic prowess, displaying the full range of emotions and thoughts that the main character is slowly awakening to. The writing was the same way as I had difficulty with how each sentence of dialogue ended with the word “Go,” of which I soon realized was intentional; another sign of how the Guarantee Committee was controlling the way citizens spoke, urging people to “use their Goes.” Luckily, we the reader get a reprieve from our “goes.”
What cuts truly deep about this story is that this where our society seems to be heading to now. We may not have chips imbedded in our arms, but we have cellphones that we check on average eighty-times a day. What’s to say we won’t be use to the idea of getting a tiny chip installed if it’s advertised as “timesavers” and “effortless.” There is always some product that some company is insisting we can’t live without and in turn always some technological device that we ourselves feel we could do better for if we had. This graphic novel truly is an important read, especially to that of our current generation of young adults who hardly know anything less that “instantaneous.” This is a great reminder that there are benefits to just sitting down, smelling the flowers, and perhaps taking the time in a world where there seems to be no time whatsoever to perhaps read a book.
Check out Decelerate Blue at your local bookstore or online. While you’re at it, check out the rest of First Second’s library of great reads at their website, www.firstsecondbooks.com