Synopses & Reviews
It would be easy to call Tom Kaczynski the J.G. Ballard of comics. Like Ballard, Kaczynski's comics riff on dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.Yet while Kaczynski shares many of Ballard's obsessions, he processes them in unique ways. His visual storytelling adds an architectural dimension that the written word alone lacks.
Kaczynski takes abstract ideas — capitalism, communism, or utopianism — and makes them tangible. He depicts and meditates on the immense political and technological structures and spaces we inhabit that subtly affect and define the limits of who we are and the freedom we as Americans presume to enjoy. Society and the individual, in perpetual tension. Once you've read Kaczynski's comics, it should come as no surprise to learn that he studied architecture before embarking on a career as a cartoonist.
Beta Testing includes approximately 10 short stories, most notably "The New," a brand new story created expressly for this book. It's Kaczynski's longest story to date. "The New" is set in an un-named third-world megalopolis. It could be Dhaka, Lagos or Mumbai. The city creaks under the pressure of explosive growth. Whole districts are built in a week. The story follows an internationally renowned starchitect as he struggles to impose his vision on the metropolis. A vision threatened by the massive dispossessed slum-proletariat inhabiting the slums and favelas on the edges of the city. From the fetid ferment of garbage dumps and shanties emerges a new feral architecture.
"Several of the pieces in this collection (many of which were originally published in MOME) amount to familiar meanderings about society as a construct, emotions as manufactured, and human beings as marionettes/husks manipulated by unseen and uncontrollable institutional forces. Other stories, such as 'Music for Neanderthals,' a satire of filmmakers and filmmaking, are hilariously sharp. Kaczynski's range is wide, and in these chronologically arranged stories, we can trace an artistic development that begins as self-satisfied (the earlier stories have a slight 'know-it-all' flavor) and becomes more searching and curious (the final story, 'The New,' is an ambitious parable about corporate greed). In his appealing, clean duotone art, Kaczynski emphasizes gridlike compositions that reinforce his view of the world as pre-programmed, locked down, and fully controlled by forces he only hints at the military-industrial complex or the Illuminati, perhaps. Although the later stories are more imaginative, there remains, throughout the book, a finger-wagging polemical streak of a type generally ill-suited to comics. Kaczynski, however, makes this work, and although his worldview won't connect with everyone, there is plenty of smart humor and honest perspective." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A heady conflation of philosophy, fiction, and comics.
A heady conflation of philosophy, fiction & comics.
About the Author
Tom Kaczynski learned to read English by reading American capitalist comics in communist Poland. His comics have appeared in The Drama, Punk Planet and Backwards City Review. He lives in Minneapolis with his girlfriend Nikki and two cats.