A few months ago I reviewed the preview of Reid Psaltis’ Kingdom/Order. It left me with a haunted feeling which I could not shake. It was moody. It was disturbing. It left me with more questions than answers. In short, I wanted more.
Thankfully, Psaltis is back with a complete first part of the book! While there are more pages, and things are a bit clearer, everything that I loved about the preview is still in place!
Kindgom/Order wordlessly follows a man as he searches for some sort of meaning in his life. Through symbols and sounds it is clear that he is a part of the greater Natural world, and a bit divorced from the Modern world which surrounds him. The nameless protagonist finds himself noticing and following the sounds of the animals around him. But, how much of it is real, and how much of it is in his head?
As much Psaltis’ art is on display in Kingdom/Order, the real gem of the book is in the design work which went into the sounds each creature makes. Each creature is given their own “voice” via a distinct visual representation. Even the vehicle which is driven by the protagonist makes its own sound which is unique, but somehow connected to the others.
An attempt at communication is demonstrated through the final shape in the above image. Part Enso, part “O” the creatures and the man try to communicate and find understanding through it. Psaltis masterfully shows that the animals are working to communicate, and the man is attempting a foreign language.
I am reminded of this quote from The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: “The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind, but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed…” It is as if both the main character, and Psaltis himself, are struggling to capture that shared existence between Man and Nature.
While it may seem like the stuff of kids’ books and Disney movies to have a plot that revolves around a man talking to animals, Psaltis keeps the mood dark throughout the book. No one will mistake this for another Dr. Doolitle story. After reading the book I was questioning my own sanity almost as much as I was questioning that of the main character. There is no sense of what is real, what is in the protagonist’s head, and what is being filled in by the reader. In that sense, the book demands that you pay attention, look for clues, and come back for part two!
You can read the entire first volume on line right here. Do yourself a favor and check it out!