Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"Men kill for the truth because they do not know how to live for it." -- G.W. Wilson's "Air"

The title for this review is stolen from the second volume
of G. Willow Wilson’s Air.

From 2008 to 2010, G. Willow Wilson chronicled the trials and tribulations of Blythe Cameron, hyperpract extraordinaire. Hyperpracts are (mostly) women and (much more rarely) men, ordinary in every respect except for their singular intuition and fierce imagination. Given the right circumstances, hyperpracts are capable of tapping into the essence of things, manipulating the symbols which ontologically pre-figure reality in order to produce a variety of thaumaturgic effects (though mainly: efficient, expedient air travel).

If my pseudo-metaphysical verbiage does not truly give it justice, it is because Wilson’s Air is utterly unpigeon-holeable. Air is a treatise on the power of words, a meditation on the origins of ideas, a thesis on liminality; it is a narratologist’s fantasy. Air is a pamphlet against both fundamentalism and the extremes of relativism, arguing that symbols are too wild and too precious to bow to any agenda. While certainly a highly satisfying alternate-history/sci-fi yarn, Air is above all a love story -- though not by any means a straightforward one.

Wilson is particularly adept at presenting us multilayered characters, progressively revealing their motivations by unraveling the intricate web of their allegiances. We make acquaintance with certain very colourful organizations in the process, some which we might wish were real -- sky-faring gypsies and punk-rock mujahideens -- others which we cannot help but hate for embodying our own paranoid, parochialist tendencies.

Blythe Cameron is a complicated personna in that she alternates between tumbleweed passivity and extremes of resourcefulness; one might charitably suppose this to be the path a traveller must walk to find herself in a world of unknowables. Thinking back on the story as a whole, I am grateful to observe a tendency towards increasing agency is indeed part of Blythe's evolution.

M.K. Perker’s art is a model of restraint; action scenes (and even hallucinations) are depicted with rare tact and sobriety, leaving more than enough breathing room for the reader’s imagination -- and not a little ambiguity.

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