There are graphic novels that prompt dreams. There are graphic novels that prompt sleep. And then there are graphic novels about dreamers, like Glenn Ganges in: The River at Night from Kevin Huizenga.
A man lies awake beside his slumbering wife, trying to fall asleep. As he does, a stream of thoughts enters his mind. Through the magic of Huizenga’s art, the reader is able to enter his dozing consciousness to witness those story fragments.
What does he think about? Time travel. The Grim Reaper. Home schooling. His time at a dotcom startup. If you’ve ever had trouble waiting for sleep to claim you, you’ve probably gone over a similar mix of topics in your head while on the edge of unconsciousness.
The River at Night is funny and thought-provoking. It proves that the human mind is capable of grasping the most complicated of ideas, as well as obsessing over the silliest bit of mundane trivia. It’s one of them dualities.
The part of the book I enjoyed the most is the segment titled Pulverize, in which Glenn thinks about working with a group of young programmers at the doomed company Requestra in the late 1990s. It’s an apt satire of the corporate culture at the time, when having a cool website was more important than, you know, actually generating revenue.
Glenn and his co-workers spend time after work playing Pulverize, an online first-person shooter. They spend almost as much time gaming as working, one of the jabs Huizenga takes at dotcom mania.
“Today, new economy thinking looks for competitive advantage in the realm of the spirit,” a self-described business guru tells Requestra’s staff. It’s at this point that Glenn’s head pops off his body. At the same meeting, the company’s chief executive interrupts: “I think that it might be interesting to note that 20 per cent of blah blah etc.” Naturally, Requestra goes belly up.
Huizenga is also a master of the wordless panel. At one point, he dives inside a computer game and supplies page after page of dancing graphics. If he hasn’t read Jack Kirby’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, then he’s definitely seen the movie’s dazzling final 20 minutes.