on July 22, 2006
I find "Blood song" amazing. I mean, amazing **********. A big story contained in a small book. A girl in a South Asian forest goes to fetch some water, and in the meantime her world is destroyed. She gets into a boat with her dog and starts rowing. Is the book a story of an immigrant from Vietnam? There are no explanations attached to the pictures. The story feels large, universal. It's the journey of a small individual in the world governed by powers: armies, fire, the ocean, racial domination. I thought crosses my mind; this could be a great animation movie, something in the style of 'Princess Mononoke', but, no, this book is a great artform as it is, a story compressed in five minutes flipping through a silent, breathtaking book. Amazing, clear, simple graphics, and not even a single word. I'm stunned.
I've looked up the reviews on Amazon and some of them accuse the book of preaching. Hmm, even preaching can be made into art, can't it?
This is a story that begins far away, with a girl and her dog and the powerful journey of transformation and meaning they endure. It is a story without words, consisting of incredible images crafted with stark beauty and stunning ability. The main character of the story, a young girl on the verge of womanhood lives in a peaceful, pastoral setting in some remote village-but coming home from the river one day, she discovers that her peaceable world has been drastically changed, and this sends her on a vivid journey that only Mr. Drooker's art can do justice to.
This is my first encounter with Eric Drooker's evocative imagery. I'm determined it will not be my last. This book epitomizes the legitimacy of the graphic novel as a valid and valuable medium of expression. Powerful pictures crafted with a limited palette of colors make this story all the more striking and beautiful. The feeling of being swept up in a powerful story, of emotion and depth is immediate and takes the reader from the first page to the last. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that this book can be read by anyone who can see the art on the page. No poor reading skills will block it's story, no language barrier stands in the way.
Native New Yorker, Eric Drooker is certainly a compelling artist and BLOOD SONG showcases his work in fine fashion. The art will likely appeal to a varied audience of viewers. The views presented in the story and the author's attitudes towards governmental authority might not appeal as widely. Mr. Drooker doesn't "mince words" with his story, nor does he pull his punches. But the larger message in Drooker's work is one of universal connection, hope and humanity in a continuing cycle.
Even if you've never encountered a graphic novel before, pick this one up, page through it. If that simple act doesn't keep you turning pages I'll be very surprised.
Happy Reading! ^_^ --shanshad
on September 12, 2014
Greatly done, and I especially love to use it as inspiration. As a writer, I like to have something different to look at. Reading other novels is good, but other media can give great ideas, and this is definitely on that list for me.
This is an outstanding example of a lost art form - storytelling without words. I won't go so far as to make comparisons with Egypt and Mesoamerica, as Joe Sacco does in this book's over-analytical (and dare I say, unnecessarily wordy) introduction. But here Eric Drooker has mastered the art of telling a tale in sequential pictures only, without a single word in sight. The nearly monochromatic drawings, engraved in scratchboard and watercolored, and only using bright colors in rare and exceptionally effective instances, are as haunting as they are eye-catching. Sure the story is very simplistic, with authority figures senselessly brutalizing anyone who's different, while the lead character takes a highly improbable journey to a new world. Yes, the main points about oppression and diversity are a bit muddleheaded. But those who dwell on the story's lack of detail or complexity are missing the forest for the trees. The point here is the art, and how wordless communication can incite introspection, empathy, and a love for humanity. This is a masterpiece of artistic storytelling. [~doomsdayer520~]
on June 13, 2004
I was a little hesitant to read this book but after turning the first couple of pages I was hooked. The artwork in this book is absolutely stunning. I love the little bits of colour worked into the otherwise black and white artwork because the colour is always added at exactly the right places. The story itself is very powerful and it makes you wonder. While there is no specific time or place for this book it is very possible for it to happen in this world (okay, so maybe not the row boat accross the ocean part but have you read "Life of Pi"?) the settings and events in this book are very realistic. I would definetly recommend this to anyone who is even romotely curious. This was my first graphic novel and it got me hooked so I figure that speaks for itself.
Eric Drooker, Blood Song: A Silent Ballad (Harcourt, 2002)
I knew this book was going to annoy me while reading Joe Sacco's introduction (which, by the way, is excellent); he introduces Drooker as "hard-left" and goes on to explore the themes found here in light of that. And, as I expected after reading that-- I had no idea what the book was actually about when I grabbed it off the library shelf-- yeah, I found it intensely annoying. So why does a book that drove me bats get four stars?
Because it's not the tale, it's the way you tell the tale. Had I not first read Sacco's introduction, I might not have glommed onto everything Drooker was on about here, and thus, it wouldn't have annoyed me. Because Drooker knows how to tell a tale and let the politics bleed through. Which I find amazing, not because he did so, but because this is the second book I'm reviewing this week where a message writer actually gets it right (the other being China Mieville's Un Lun Dun).
Drooker's book-- which other than a Melville epigram on the opening page is entirely wordless-- concerns a young woman who lives in a small village somewhere. The first few pages show us a day in the life; a father catches fish and takes it home to the family, where it is cooked and eaten, and everyone goes to sleep. Normal stuff. The next morning, the girl goes off to get water. When she gets back to the village-- well, this is why I didn't know what was coming. The back matter doesn't spoil the story, so I'm not going to. I'll just say that things are not at all what they seem in this world. From there, the girl finds her way to a much larger city, and the latter half of the book concerns what happens to her there.
Drooker's genius lies in his ability to make a very muted palette of colors (with a few notable exceptions; there's a yellow butterfly who recurs throughout the story, for example) convey so much information, with no words involved. The girl is walking back through the forest with the water, and her trusty canine companion is chasing that yellow butterfly. Then, suddenly, both dog and butterfly stop at the edge of the woods. It seems like such a small thing, but subtle differences in the dog's posture, the sudden closing of the gap between them, hint at something momentous. That's good stuff right there. Very effective storytelling. Drooker also has a wonderful eye for pace (and reflecting the pace in the characters, such as the closing of the gap between the dog and the butterfly), and that, more than the wordlessness of the book, makes the pages fly by, for you will stop at regular intervals just to appreciate what it is Drooker is doing with the way his characters are portrayed. This is not to say Drooker doesn't get heavy-handed now and then (the framing pages of starting with the Milky Way, then drilling down to the scene, and going back up at the end), and my perverse conservative imp wants to intentionally misinterpret the final scene before that last pullout, but despite my distaste for the story itself-- which is manipulative and predictable-- when I closed the book, I knew I'd been in the presence of someone who does, surely know how to tell a story, and tell it well. ****
on December 13, 2011
Blood Song is a wordless novel by Eric Drooker, first published in 2002. The book is composed of illustrations created using a combination of scratchboard and watercolor media. The pictures are composed almost entirely in black, white, and shades of bluish gray, with the exception of occasional touches of color added for emphasis--a yellow butterfly, a green bird, a red drop of blood. The art in this book is absolutely beautiful! Each panel is suitable for framing. In this book Drooker displays a more mature, refined, and fluid style than the jagged, raw imagery of his 1992 graphic novel Flood! That's not to say that either style is better; both books stand as contemporary masterpieces of graphic art.
Unfortunately the storytelling of Blood Song doesn't meet the same standard as the art. The beginning of the book is strikingly similar to Laurence Hyde's excellent wordless novel of 1951, Southern Cross. Drooker depicts a rural village in what appears to be southeast Asia. Here a young woman lives out an idyllic existence with her family and her faithful dog. While out fetching water one day, her paradise is invaded by a military force that looks an awful lot like Americans. The girl and her dog flee, embarking on a journey that will take them far away from their homeland. About nine out of ten images in the book depict the girl on her way to some place. Only about one in ten show what happens when she actually gets somewhere. The result is a book loaded with beautiful images but possessing little literary content. While Flood! contained some ambiguity in its narrative, allowing for varied interpretations, Blood Song is a very linear and straightforward story. Drooker seems to be striving for the allegorical feel of a modern-day fairy tale, but even fairy tales require more depth than one finds here. It doesn't help that the heroine here is a literal babe-in-the-woods innocent, creating a good vs. evil dichotomy that is as absolute as black and white. Drooker's apparent assertion that all cops, all soldiers, all figures of authority are evil comes across as immature. In Flood! Drooker handled his characters and plot with much more subtletly and nuance. Blood Song, though stunning to look at, leaves the reader wanting more.
on February 19, 2006
This is a narrative related entirely in pictures, in the mode of such previous artist-storytellers as Lynd Ward. The novel begins in a nameless Asian country (Vietnam during the war?) and follows the central character (a young Asian woman, also nameless, of course) through the jungles and across the ocean to a large Western city (maybe New York), where further adventures ensue. This is probably enough of the plot to give you the idea, without giving anything away. A certain amount of surrealism is present, though perhaps less than in Flood!, a previous work by Drooker.
Drooker combines a unique, expressive drawing style with what I would regard as simplistic political posturing. (Leftist politics also seems to be part of the novel-without-words mindset; once again Lynd Ward could be cited.) Unlike the black-and-white scratchboard art of Flood! (a book I liked a bit more), Drooker uses color this time, albeit in a limied, almost monochromatic way -- the story is presented mostly in blue and black, with occasional stand-out flashes of more vivid color (red, yellow, orange) to accentuate a scene or a point.
All in all, I liked Blood Song fairly well, for the narrative skill (presenting a coherent story without ever using a written word is tricky) and the artwork. As for the politics, I'm willing to listen to any point of view, but I don't like propaganda presented as art. I believe that Drooker's work transcends propaganda, however, and truly tells a story.
on September 29, 2012
You could read this story as a modern version of of the universal hope of spring. In the Eqyptian telling, Osiris is struck down; in the Norse telling, frost giants kill Frejr; and so on. Winter comes and all looks lost, but at the end of winter, life begins anew. All of us must die, but life will go on. What could be more realistic and more hopeful?
Or you could read this story as a reminder that our habit of slaughtering people who are militarily weaker has consequences that we would not like if we were on the other side of the gun. This is without a doubt a more disturbing message for some people, and it should be; but no one ever became a better person through denial.
The artwork is excellent and suits the story. Some may criticize the pacing, because a lot of the work consists of the protagonist just going from here to there. However, I think this spacing is necessary, because the work would be too intense if it were only the action scenes. There's a place for comic books with a *pow!* on every page, but this isn't it; must of life consists of the gaps between the action.
Finally, this work shines as an example of the power of graphic novels to tell stories. Love it or hate it, but don't miss it!
on October 24, 2004
I recommend this book highly. I have read some of the other reviews of this book and I think the negative reviews here are way too simplistic and harsh. This book has more depth than black and white. The fact is that there are many themes going on in this book and it is not simply a political novel. It is also about struggles and change that one person can endure. It is about the hope of a child. It is about fighting and struggling for what is right. It is about love and brotherhood. Please, by all means, DO NOT listen to the negative reviews. Anyone that took a simplistic view of this book obviously did not have the brain power or creativity to look deeper to what the book was really saying. This point did not have one simplistic point, it was many points that should leave you flooded with many thoughts in your head, that is of you are an intelligent individual. The fact is, the images are totally left up to interpretation- that is the beauty of pictures. It is a timeless novel which does not have to represent any particular place, time, or person. Each time I have read it, I saw something new and different, with more depth. Each time I finish the book, I have both tears in my eyes as well as hope. It brings both the beauty and sadness of life together in what appears to be black and white, but below the surface is full of color, if you look deep enough. Take my advice and read it many times.