BOOK REVIEW: The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
Self Made Hero
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
In Scarper Lee’s world, parents don’t make children— children make parents. Scarper’s father is a wind-powered brass construction whilst his mother is a bakelite hairdryer. It’s also a world without birthdays, only deathdays, and Scarper’s deathday is fast approaching. With just three weeks left to live, Scarper is forced from his routine and strikes out into the unknown—where relationships are tested and authority challenged. An edgy and surreal fantasy from internationally acclaimed writer/artist, Rob Davis, Eisner-nominated for The Complete Don Quixote.
The Motherless Oven has got to be one of the weirdest things I have ever read, graphic novel or not.
The weather clock said, “Knife o’clock.” So I chained Dad up in the shed.
In fact, this story is so weird, so surreal, that I wasn’t sure whether I actually liked it or not (though rather suspected that I did) until I saw the second book on the shelf in a store and bought it immediately. That reflexive need to possess the next book speaks volumes about my real feelings f0r Davis’s work.
At its heart, this is a coming of age story that questions whether we can change our fate, and examines the ways different people, in a world so very unlike our own, perceive death.
“They say that no one’s ever got away from Stour Provost, that death is the only escape.”
“I fancy your chances more than ours, then.”
“I’d rather be dead than get caught and sealed in a police jar until I die.”
Sure, the world within these pages is one where everyone has a death day, where the children create the parents and the only limit seems to be their imagination, where every machine (and various other things besides) are called “gods” and spout seemingly random things, where guard lions keep the students from playing hooky from school, and knives rain from the sky… and that’s not the half of it!
Castro’s mum is a bird cage. Which makes sense.
But in the end it is about these core things of trying to come of age in a world that maybe doesn’t want you to, in which things that seem bizarre to you are accepted by society.
All of your questions will not be answered at the end of this installment, but one thing is a pretty safe bet when going into this book… It’s bound to be unlike anything you’ve ever read before and, despite the totally bizarre elements within, the world Davis has built is a complex one and the illustrations are great; bleak and dark and emotive.
Whether you like it or hate it, or aren’t sure how you feel about it, this one is sure to stick with you. And The Can Opener’s Daughter (review to come) does clear up some of the questions left open in this one, while still keeping you hanging for the third book.
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