Looking back across Daniel Clowes’ many works it would be fair to say that the man has given us a diverse range of stories, and genres too. With his latest book he jumps manfully into the realm of science fiction with a time-travelling tale concerning a desperate bid to save a loved one.
Jack and Patience have little money, limited opportunities and an uncertain future when they realise that Patience is pregnant. To make matters worse, Jack’s hiding what he really does for a living from Patience and the deception is eating him inside, so he decides to right that wrong and confess his stupidity upon his return hone. To his horror, when he arrives, he finds Patience slumped on the floor of their apartment, murdered. Wracked with guilt, hauled in for questioning and presumed guilty of the crime, it’s some months before Jack is released and sets upon doing his own investigating. Although he uncovers a few leads he gets nowhere for seventeen years, where he stumbles upon someone who just may have found a way to travel through time. And that could change everything.
Daniel Clowes is not, to be fair, a writer of science fiction. The science part is deliberately obtuse and wooly, the near future depicted like a half-remembered episode of retro Star Trek, but that’s not the point. Clowes draw his strength from his characters, creating believable personalities living tiny lives in often difficult situations, and then stepping back to see how they all rub along together. So the science fiction element may be a little rum, but the excellent characterisation trumps all that and carries you through to the final page. So in one sense you get a book that’s like nothing at all what you were expecting, but it’s undeniably Clowes throughout, and brilliant because of it.
And if you liked that: Lots of other Clowes books to choose from, but you couldn’t do worse than The Death Ray