Ok, let us address the most important question first: Why does the title of Lewis Trondheim's book spell "alien" with three E's? The title page claims that the acronym stands for "Archives of Lost Issues of Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties." My own opinion, based on the climax of this twisting, wordless narrative, is that the two extra E's stand for "excessive excrement." I will say no more, to preserve the innocence of those of you who have yet to read this graphic novel. Innocence that will be crushed all too soon. On page two, in fact, when an adorable little blue alien pig-creature gambols through a lurid pastoral landscape straight into the sharp branches of a tree, which poke his eyes out.

Trondheim, in the grand "meta" tradition of Kierkegaard, claims to have found this volume in the middle of a scorched patch of earth while camping with his family (the edges of the pages still show vague burn marks), and to have passed it on unchanged to his publisher, excited at the prospect of discovering what alien children actually read. It rapidly becomes clear that these alien children are going to have a LOT to discuss with their therapists when they grow up. These tales have the primal, warning harshness of old fairy tales, the ones in which Cinderella's stepsisters fit into the slipper by cutting off their toes and heels. Multiple stories weave in and out of one another's awareness (in fact the whole landscape feels like a Renaissance romance with enraptured or terrified semi-allegorical characters running aimlessly through it: "Alien Furioso"). You are never sure that you truly understand the causal relationships between events until you get to the very last page. A disturbing book, but a really sort of brilliant one in terms of narrative construction.

Lewis Trondheim (2004 in French, 2006 in English)

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