Review Blog

Jan 17 2014

Dark satanic mills by Marcus Sedgwick and Julian Sedgwick

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Ill. by John Higgins and Marc Olivent. Walker, 2013. ISBN 9781406329889.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Graphic novel, Future, Fundamentalism, Dystopian novel. With the hymn, Jerusalem, sparked by the title, a trip to Google to find the whole poem by William Blake is the first step in reading this dark treatise about a near future London, where religious fanatics are taking over areas north of the city. A strong dystopian theme runs through with illustrations showing a near destroyed city, water lapping over Trafalgar Square, the water level so high that the Portrait Gallery is now a ferry stop. Shown with its bombed buildings and impassable streets, the city shadows the images we see on nightly TV of war ravaged cities in the Middle East, and when Christy is out after curfew, she falls foul of the fanatics trying to exert their power over the population.
So she must run for her life. Implicated now in a murder, she tries to seek shelter from people she knows, but her presence imperils them all.
This is a breathless read, stirred on by the black and white illustrations, often using close up drawings to sharpen the impact of the horror she sees. The readers will follow Christy's fight eagerly, watching as gangs of bullies from the True Church intimidate and beat up those who question. The parallels to today's society are obvious, as Fundamentalists strike at the seat of power, gaining credibility and prestige amongst those opting for a safer future.
The road north brings Christy and now, Alex, into Birmingham with its gangs of thugs, the Anti-Sci, feeding people's fears, burning as witches the non believers, chaining men to ricks in the blighted wilderness, heralding miracles to gain power. It is grim stuff, but an enthralling read with many parallels to the recent growth of fundamentalist groups within our societies. Readers will love the illustrative techniques of the two illustrators, Higgins and Olivent, as they portray a society's upheaval with panache.
Fran Knight

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