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Comment: Paperback, ex-library copy w/associated markings, some shelf wear on edges, pages clean, no marks, tight binding, ships from Oregon Non-Profit, proceeds benefit local library
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Big Questions Paperback – August 16, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Nilsen is an exquisite draftsman with incredible patience for textures.” ―Glen David Gold, Los Angeles Times on Anders Nilsen

“Anders Nilsen must be a genius.” ―Giant Robot on Anders Nilsen

“Nilsen uses spare renderings to create a haunting narrative that will leave you wondering whether you've read a book or walked through a dream.” ―The Washington Post on Anders Nilsen

About the Author

Anders Nilsen was born in New Hampshire and now lives in Chicago. He has a BFA in painting and illustration from the University of NewMexico in Albuquerque. He is the author of Dogs and Water and Don't Go Where I Can't Follow.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 658 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (August 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770460470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770460478
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 2.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Nyktas on September 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been a long wait for a collected version of Big Questions. I first read a couple of single issues at a comic store in Evanston, IL, but the early issues were long out of print, and hard to find. Now that I've read the whole story, I can tell you it's fantastic.

Big Questions is an anthropomorphic animal tale, of course, and the real joy comes in seeing the world as these birds do. The birds are endearing, asking simple questions - sometimes they are insightful, but other times they misunderstand the world, and people, in spectacular ways. Ultimately this leads us through a journey that is beautiful, poetic, and often surreal. The illustrations provide an outstanding complement, typically delicate black lines on seas of white.

I got the hardcover, and I will mention one flaw - the binding already had a crease where it'd been opened. However, I got a signed copy, 500-ish out of 1000, so I like to think the author damaged the binding personally. In all honesty, it's a hefty book at about 650 pages, you'll have a hard time not creasing your binding. I also think you'll keep it at home; too heavy to carry around. Still, it is an absolutely stunning book - thick pages and a gorgeous cover; definitely a prized member of my collection.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By tripp9009 on December 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
As the product of over fifteen years of work, it is no surprise that Big Questions clocks in at nearly 600 pages, a hefty tome both the size and weight of a classic Russian novel. The intimidating bulk, however, belies the gentle, dreamlike story contained within: a tale of talking birds and a mysterious egg that brews destruction.

At the novel's beginning, drifting through a vast, grassy field populated with a cast of aimless, philosophizing birds--each so visually indistinguishable from the next that I was constantly flipping to the characters index to make sense of who was whom--it seemed as though Big Questions was a series of amusing but unrelated sketches, more a comics anthology than an overarching narrative. The arrival of a dropped bomb, however, jumpstarts Big Questions into full, sprawling-story gear. For some of the birds, the bomb becomes a mystic sign from on-high, and they quickly form an increasingly dangerous cult dedicated to its protection. Other birds find their own obsessions, like Algernon who searches for his missing wife and soon finds himself captive in one of Nilsen's most beautifully rendered spaces: a labyrinth-like snake's den that plunges ever deeper into the earth, hiding at its nadir a mysterious, avian underworld. As the birds discover their callings and forge their alliances, they are pulled into conflict with one another in moments of startling and brutal violence.

Unlike Watership Down, the classic Richard Adams novel Nilsen seems to be channeling, Big Questions derives its existential horror not from its characters' endless fight to survive but from the needlessness of their suffering. Whereas Watership Down's rabbits searched continually for a peaceful warren, Nilsen's birds already live in a paradise of plentiful food and few predators.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Abraham Jeyakumar on January 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book starts out feeling like it's forcing some of the deep thought. I wasn't conviced that the questions themselves were earnest, but the book soon builds. The story line seems to have taken about 10 years to complete and the reader can see the change even in the art. The first pages have crudely drawn figures, but as the pages turn, you begin to see better art that snowballs with better detail. Anders seems to have a good idea of human body language and facial expressions. Although he doesn't follow human anatomy accurately, there is something that feels real about his artwork. The story is tragic and still sunny and light. There is love and heroism. There is a certain hint of nihlism and chaos, but you do get the sense that Anders is trying to convey hope in his own way. He is a great story writer. He has definetly spent a lot of time on his art work and storyline.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Landes on March 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
Although "Big Questions" was named to the NY Times Notable Books of 2011, you are not going to see it reviewed in a real massive way as it is definitely what you would call a non-traditional selection on this prestigious list. It is a graphic novel and at that not really a novel per se but rather a collection of loosely affiliated stories. If you can get past that though, you will find an author and artist who worked for more than 10 years on putting together a story told primarily through the perspective of docile birds and aggressive ravens about a plane crash and an unexploded bomb, a nearly naked man and the pilot of the plane, and relationships between snakes and birds, geese and men. The book is funny while touching, caustic and sharp in its humor. Something different for sure but worth a read. It won't take you long.
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Format: Paperback
Like Dogs and Water, his breakthrough graphic novel, Big Questions centers on a quiet, unsettled region. It also features a crashed aircraft, and characters dealing (poorly) with a survival situation. In Big Questions, however, the humans are not the protagonists. A mute, mentally challenged boy of 15 or 16 has just lost his Grandmother and his home. He is only dimly aware of the horror of the event, and moves on, following his curiosity and thirst and hunger. The downed pilot, who may have purposely grounded himself in the wilderness in an ill-planned desertion attempt, is aware of little beyond whatever war is raging inside his skull. After running into the boy and learning how simple he is, he pays little more attention to him than the birds that seem to be converging on his bomber...

The birds are the main characters in this reversed fable; their relationships are disrupted by the aircraft, which they believe is a massive, possibly injured bird. Some begin to attach religious importance to it, and to it's 'egg'... a gleaming metal bomb that is just waiting to 'hatch'...

The people in this tale are the animals; unpredictable, uncommunicative, and sometimes savagely violent. Nilsen's big questions concerning faith, death, friendship and loyalty, the importance of truth in a world of constantly evolving perceptions -- are asked by the smallest of creatures. The biggest question of all applies as much to robins and sparrows and snakes and worms, even if they never thought to ask: what is the meaning of life? The answer must apply to every living creature, or it applies to none of us.

Nilsen's characteristic style, an open, clean and sparse application of contours, combined with a dash-pointilism that provides a modicum of texturing, is instantly recognizable.
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