Publishers Weekly reviews The Strange and Woman World

“PW Reviews” / Publishers Weekly / Shaina Yahr / July 25, 2018

The Strange

The protagonist in this gutting story of undocumented immigration is an anthropomorphic dog with an oversized body and a sad, round face, named “the Strange.” This is a universe inhabited by animals whose species are assigned based on character personality traits and authorial whim. The Strange’s attempt to find work and escape deportation from an unnamed European city is chronicled by a series of narrators, among them a taxi driver, a police officer, and several members of an aid network. The observer-driven form underscores the disenfranchising nature of life on society’s margins. Even the fish in the aquarium at the Strange’s apartment get more of a voice than he does. He is perceived as dangerous when in fact he is the one in peril from law enforcement and exploitative landlords and employers. Ruillier’s crosshatched pencil drawings and large blocks of single colors create a lonely world in which the backdrop is constantly changing. The narrative echoes the surrealism and disorientation of contemporary prose portrayals such as Moshin Hamid’s Exit West. Ruillier’s portrayal of a literal underdog and an increasingly ruthless state forces readers to acknowledge harsh treatment of immigrants. (June)

Woman World

The apocalypse wreaks its havoc gently in this comic chronicle of women’s fortitude. Men worldwide have died out after a mysterious dearth of male births, leaving only women and girls to carry the flame of civilization forward. Ruins litter the landscape, medical advances find no way to produce viable male embryos, and knowledge of a past with men slips steadily away. But Dhaliwal’s snippets of story happen between and beyond those terrifying developments: romances, laughter, and family persist, as well as games of Boggle and love of Twinkies. Emiko, a young girl, worships Kevin James’s Paul Blart movies. The mayor is naked, not as a feminist statement, but to feel “the cool breeze on my underboob.” The simple-but-exuberant line drawing, with characters posing dramatically with bold facial expressions, alternates in black, white, and grays with pages of warm pastels. This comic is defiantly a comedy, albeit a dark one. Women’s creativity, sexuality, and fearlessness are unleashed by Dhaliwal’s end of days. These unlikely heroines are unafraid to meet Armageddon with irreverence as they laugh, love, and raucously live on in this unusual and charming farce. (Sept.)

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