Friday, November 12, 2021

"The Shiatsung Project," is a Fascinating Examination of Loneliness, Desperation, and a Surveillance State Run Amuck

I reached out to Conundrum Press after I saw the solicitation for, "The Shiatsung Project," a couple months ago. They were kind enough to provide a digital copy for review and said I could post my thoughts in November when the book was due to come out. I've now waited and cannot encourage folks enough to read this book. Written and illustrated by Brigitte Archambault with Aleshia Jensen as the English translator (Archambault is French Canadian and the book was released previously in French), the book follows an unnamed woman who has spent her whole life alone with only a computer system known as Shiatsung to keep her company. It provides education, entertainment, food. It guides the woman through cleaning and maintenance, and it keeps her contained in a house with a pool, a little yard, and nothing else but four tall walls.

The woman wonders what could be outside or near. She swears she has heard yelling over the wall before. Shiatsung watches her closely as it seems to see almost everything. Plans are hatched to try to defy Shiatsung, and much of the book follows this woman trying to figure out just what the point of this life she is living actually is. "The Shiatsung Project," can be read literally as a somewhat sci-fi story as well as metaphorically as being a symbolic example of how in our efforts to rely more and more on technology as our source of all our needs we are isolating ourselves from other humans. However you want to interpret it, I loved the book.

Archambault's art is fantastic. Whether showcasing the eerie quiet of the woman's life in this little house or going over-the-top with images of the woman's strange and complex dreams, the book is gorgeous. I mentioned metaphors and, "The Shiatsung Project," is full of visual ones as well. When the woman describes feeling like a robot she is drawn as one, to give one example. It's perfect for the tone and content of the story.

Eventually, the book offers some answers about what exactly is going on, but that mystery isn't really the point so much as telling a very human tale about someone being denied something that makes us human--our ability to communicate and share our thoughts with others. "The Shiatsung Project," is superb and I'd highly encourage reading it!

5 out of 5 stars.

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