“Land of the Rats – Gastrolithicus” (review)
The Underground Forrest, 2016
Writer: Mark Nasso
In 1851 American writer Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick”. Ostensibly a tale about the perils of whaling in pre-industrialised America, “Moby Dick” was one of the first novels which:
a. focussed upon “will to power”, in a Nietzschean sense, but thirty years before Friedrich Nietzsche wrote his texts beginning with “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (1883). The fundamental concept is that a person through sheer force of will can overcome any adversity;
b. anger with fate, as a fuel to that will to succeed. Many writers and philosophers have for centuries noted that the fates are cruel. In “Moby Dick”, Captain Ahab rages against God, embodied by the white whale, and drew strength from his fury.
In this fantasy work, entitled “Land of the Rats – Gastrolithicus”, a combination of narrative text and free-flowing art, the unnamed protagonist, wandering a strange and icy land, is subjected to various twists and turns of fate- enslavement, escape and recapture, being eaten by a giant monster, a fight to the death, and the decimation of his liberated comrades. The grim tale is punctuated by amusing monologue – reference to “ass-kicking” and the rise and fall of “stones” depending upon the protagonist’s mental state will draw a wry smile. Any additional humour, given the dire predicaments faced by the protagonist, would potentially have taken the fantasy across the line into farce along the lines of Voltaire’s “Candide”. But the humour is dry, such as it is, and is applied by Mark Nasso, writer and artist of this work, with minimal application.