I think the best stories come to us in the most interesting ways. Yet again, I have encountered an author and a world in the most unexpected of places. I first saw Parabolis in an imgur post a couple years ago. I bought the book immediately. I regret that it took me this long to read.
Parabolis as an Art Piece
As a story, Parabolis is a fast-paced glimpse into the world of the same name, one which reflects our own while remaining entirely distinct. But we’ll come back to that.
What caught my eye about Parabolis when I first came across that random imgur post was the look and feel of the book itself. Parabolis is a “novelzine”, which I’m 70% sure the author made up.
Eddie Han has formatted his book in a unique way that actually engages the reader as they turn each page. With short chapters formed into two-columned splash pages, the reading process feels rapid without being stunted.
Each POV section in the novel uses a different color paper, so the tone of each chapter quite literally changes, adding an extra layer of understanding to the narrative.
Interspersed throughout are 70 graphic images designed by Curt Merlo in a style entirely reminiscent of Soviet-era propaganda. The images carry the thematic presence of the novel as a fantasy “period” piece of political uncertainty and upheaval.
The World of Parabolis
The story itself is riveting. Dale Sunday is a soldier just returned from war, hoping to escape the fighting and lead a simple life of running his father’s breaker. But political machinations much larger than him — machinations Dale was once a tiny cog in — snatch away any hope of a quiet life on the harbor.
From the build-up and outset of a frighteningly efficient war, Dale is flung into a journey he can’t really escape.
Parabolis is a humanist adventure whose characters feel as intricate and relatable as the well-structured pages on which they are written. The author forgoes heavy-handed description and instead allows the reader to formulate the world themselves with minimalist detail and tones that are reflected more in the characters themselves than in their surroundings.
I will admit that the short sections at times felt jolting, but also added the the rising tension of the novel. The story arc is driven and feels like overlong rising action most of the way through. However, this is spectacularly paid off with a climactic battle that is chaotic and vivid.
If I had one gripe with the novel, it would be that the story ends too quickly. By the time the reader understands the scope and stakes of what is happening around Dale, and he is on the run, two-thirds of the book have passed. Now I am simply left waiting for book two!
Pros: Wonderful physical artpiece that combines expert page formatting with thoughtful images. The characters are intricate and carry both the narrative and imagination of the story
Cons: The pacing can at times feel as if it has moved ahead of the reader, until they are left dazed at the end wondering how we got there so quickly.
All the same, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and will be eagerly anticipating news of the sequel.