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The Speed AbaterReview - The Speed Abater
by Christophe Blain
NBM Books, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 11th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 28)

The Speed Abater is translated from the French, and was originally published in 1999.  It has won the author the prize for best new talent at the major Bandes Dessiness convention at Angouleme.  The 80-page graphic novel tells the story of George Guilbert, trained as an oceanographer, who joins the navy and is posted on a huge boat, the Bellicose.  The crew learns that they are headed out to find a submarine belonging to the enemy, and hostilities may be imminent.  Guilbert has never been at sea previously, amazingly, so he spends most of the early days being sick.  He is joined by a couple of crewmates who also can't stomach the rolling of the ship, and they start exploring on their own.  They start going to parts of the ship they are not meant to be in, and one of them, the buffoon Nordiz, shows them the massive reduction gears that help slow the ship down.  Through their messing around, they manage to cause a malfunction, and they run away.  They know they are in trouble, so they hide in the bowels of the ship, going deeper and deeper, until they are thoroughly lost. 

Blain's artwork is fairly crude, but it is vigorous and he uses colors effectively in conveying the artificial lights in the dark tunnels of the boat.  The story is interesting, even though the main protagonist is not a particularly sympathetic personality and the characterization is two-dimensional.  The appeal of the novel largely rests on the romance of the sea, and so may only appeal to a small readership.  It's an ambitious work, and it distinctively illustrates the cramped conditions of the boat and the isolation of the crew in the middle of the ocean, as well as the hierarchy of the navy bureaucracy.  However, the portrayal of the emotions of the characters lacks subtlety, so ultimately the work fails to grip the reader. 

 

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© 2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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