I'd heard about Gwee Li Sui for some time now but first met him at a book launch a couple of weeks back. He was a nice guy and not only autographed my books but even drew a little sketch of me. Haha, so I naturally picked up this graphic novel at the library when I chanced upon it while browsing through the "Singapore" section as I always do.
I must say it's not a bad attempt for a debut graphic novel. It was first published more than 20 years ago and is now resurrected in this lovely edition. I'm glad Epigram Books took up this project. It's part of #SingLit after all and we should all partake of that delicious treat.
The book's basically about a boy, Li Hsu, who ventures into a fantastical world where he must find out how to turn himself back into a human after being transformed into an imp when he unwittingly sets a curse on himself.
We follow him on his quest as he encounters weird and wonderful creatures of every sort. I liked the friendly Merlions the best. Yep you read it right, Merlions. Singapore's national icon made a passing appearance in the book.
I thought it was kinda like reading C. S. Lewis' Narnia in graphic novel form, especially at the climax of the story where a sacrifice takes place and resurrection occurs. Pretty cool stuff.
It is unfortunately an extremely wordy graphic novel compared to others I've read. Now I must qualify that I've not read that many books of that genre and this is my third one after Sonny Liew's The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and one that was adapted from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, so I can't make a fair judgement. Words filled a large fraction of every page and that kinda distracted me from the comics quite a bit. But the lovely rhymes scattered throughout the book redeemed it a little. I quite enjoyed those.
It was an interesting break from the usual diet of non-fiction books in long form that I usually read although it was slightly long-winded. I think the editing could have been a wee bit tighter. But I think there probably wasn't an editor. No matter, what's done is done.
I look forward to any graphic novel Gwee might produce in the future and I would encourage him to use computer software or a ruler because reading slanting words are very tiring on the eyes. This is coming from someone who writes sentences in a downward sloping manner if the paper is unlined.
Well, if you're a kiasu Singaporean, this would make a novel gift for your friend or family member this Christmas! Get it from Kinokuniya or Books Actually today. :)