RE­VIEWS COMIC HE­ROES’ rat­ings and verdic ts snow­pier cer

Po­lar Ex­press meets Nine­teen Eighty-four

Comic Heroes - - Front Page - Writ­ers: Jac­ques Lob & Ben­jamin Legrand Artist: Pub­lisher: Ti­tan Out: Now

Jean-Marc Ro­chette

If there are two things the French do well, it’s sex and death. That’s what Snowpiercer, a cult clas­sic French ti­tle (orig­i­nally ti­tled Le Transperceneige) – ap­pear­ing here in English for the first time – is all about. Al­though ad­mit­tedly, you might not think so to be­gin with.

It’s a new ice age – we’re not sure why, al­though ev­ery­body is pretty sure one govern­ment or an­other ei­ther dropped the bomb or hit the big red but­ton marked “DO NOT PRESS” – and hu­man­ity is on its last legs. More ac­cu­rately, it’s on its last bit of track. Be­cause the hu­man race’s fi­nal few are bat­tling it out for sur­vival on a gi­ant train called Snowpiercer.

If it sounds like the worst com­mute ever, that’s be­cause it is. The train never stops, and it’s split along fascis­tic class di­vi­sions, with the govern­ment in first class and the poor folk in the cargo hold at the rear. As an anal­ogy of so­ci­ety it’s pretty clumsy, but we’ll for­give Jac­ques Lob, who wrote Snowpiercer in the late ’70s, be­cause he’s cre­ated a claus­tro­pho­bic dystopia that’s up there with the best of them.

The train is po­liced by soldiers that look like they were air­lifted in from Soviet Rus­sia, the con­di­tions are bleak all over and the people are re­volt­ing (quite lit­er­ally). When Prokoff at­tempts to es­cape his life in the filthy rear and works his way up the train with hu­man rights ac­tivist Ade­line, we’re given a whis­tle-stop tour of the train jour­ney from hell.

People are turn­ing to dodgy drugs and dodgier sex, not to men­tion priest-en­gi­neers, to for­get about their in­escapable plight. Lob con­jures up a se­ries of won­der­fully macabre con­cepts, like the vast lump of re­gen­er­at­ing syn­thetic meat (called “Mama”) that butch­ers hack to pieces to feed the plebs, as well as a pro­ces­sion of char­ac­ters that wouldn’t be out of place in Mega-City One.

In other words, this is gritty, slightly grim SF in the grand­est tra­di­tion of lit­er­ary dystopias, from Nine­teen Eighty-Four to, sur­pris­ingly, The Wizard Of Oz. With a twisty thriller of a plot, a wildly ef­fec­tive chase dy­namic and evoca­tive black and white art­work from Jean-Marc Ro­chette, it’s easy to see why Snowpiercer has been made into a film*. (See our news story on page 15.)

An in­tel­li­gent, un­com­fort­able but im­pos­si­ble-to-put-down book, Jac­ques Lob has cre­ated a story that shouldn’t re­ally work, but does. There’s a strength of con­vic­tion and a fu­ri­ous anger at the heart of Snowpiercer, and it’ll stay with you long af­ter the train has reached its fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

Life all along the length of Snow­pierce r is in chaos.

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