Author: Tim Maughan
Welcome to another edition of ComicAttack.net’s Off the Shelf. If there’s one thing about this site, it’s that we’re not all about tights and capes. The comic community goes beyond just superheroes; it covers science fiction to horror and everything else in between. And sometimes there’s a few things that aren’t comic related, but may be up your alley. Which leads us to Tim Maughan’s Paintwork.
The first thing you need to understand about Paintwork, is that it’s a post-cyberpunk work. In case that term completely flew over your head, let me explain. Cyberpunk is a type of science fiction that mainly deals with technology (mainly cybernetics, cyberspace, and anything else cyber) in the near future, told in a slick, almost poetic way. The main difference between cyberpunk and post, is that cyberpunk was written and styled in the eighties and nineties, whereas post-cyberpunk is written and styled in the late nineties to present.
And that’s the most important aspect here, style and detail (as many cyberpunk works). This is not to say that it lacks substance, but rather that style and detail are being used as a powerful tool here to pull us into a unique and fascinating world. The best style out of all the stories here (there’s three) is the first one, which is like cyberpunk meets Jet Set Grind Radio, which sets it apart from your typical run-of-the-mill cyberpunk stories. The other two have their styles, too. If you’re familiar with some of the cyberpunk Godfathers (William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Bruce Sterling, etc.), than you should easily have a grasp of these stories. And even if you’re just mostly familiar with science fiction comics (especially cyberpunk works such as Akira), than you should be able to grasp the world fairly easily, too.
Now, I mean style in more than just one way. I don’t just mean the hip-hop urban decay of Bristol, the slightly more upscale styling of the second story, or the Cuban gamer world of the third story. I’m also talking about the dialog being used. Now, future slang often gets done horribly, either being too tongue in cheek or trying too hard to show street cred. But Maughan seems to find the right balance, using slang that fits right in while remembering to use some casual conversation, too. Now, is it what you be sayin’ when you chill with your homies? Probably not, but it’s more future jargon and terminology. Again, it’s a style that helps naturally pull us further into the world.
Of course, there are other aspects outside of style. For one thing, there’s plot. Which is decent, a few different spins on things. But again, the plot isn’t necessarily the main focus here, most of the time I didn’t pay much attention to it as I was more fixated on the world and the immediacy of it. The plot is more of the rails the ride goes on than the complete story in and of itself.
And as far as the characters go, their names are more interesting than they actually are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they’re badly written. It’s just that the characters don’t get too much of a canvas, as the roughly fifty page book is composed of three novelettes. So there really isn’t much space for background and relationships.
Is Paintwork the literary work to convert comic fans on over to their local bookstore? Not really. But it is an interesting, cool urban read. Like graffiti condensed into prose. As with many cyberpunk books and especially books that fit outside the mainstream, this is something you’ll either get or you completely won’t get. If you’re already a fan of works like Neuromancer or Snow Crash, then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll probably enjoy Paintwork (probably worth downloading for a long plane ride or bus riding). If you aren’t well acquainted with hip, offbeat science fiction, then I’m not sure if you will or won’t like it, and there isn’t much I can guarantee for you. But either way, it will be a unique experience to say the least.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, you can do so at http://www.amazon.com/Paintwork-ebook/dp/B0058IY35M/
Review copy provided by Tim Maughan.