The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once said,
“It were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet.”
Similarly, it would be as wise to cast a violet into a crucible as seek to explain why Tom Gauld is a genius and Mooncop merely his latest masterpiece. I could tell you the story of Mooncop in a couple of sentences. If you are fan of Tom Gauld, it won’t matter to you what I say here. You will already have read The Gigantic Robot, Goliath, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack and the rest and you’ll no doubt be frothing in anticipation at the thought of a new book (you should, it’s very good). Maybe, if you’ve been a fan of Gauld for a while and have a copy of his collaboration with Simone Lia called Both, which features the adventures of a couple of spacemen, you will smile and think, finally! If you aren’t aware of Tom Gauld, don’t giggle at his weekly Guardian cartoons, haven’t sampled the delights of his books, then into the crucible we will go together (just know that – Tom Gauld-like – we both may end up feeling sad and detached and flat and unable to comprehend one another across a gulf too vast to traverse).
Mooncop – as the title suggests – is a policeman on the moon. There is a small, gradually diminishing community there. You get the sense that at some point in the past there was optimism, the moon could be a second chance; only it wasn’t, and now it’s like a spent American city at night. Mooncop often covers great distances, with only the odd passing robot for company. He files his reports (his crime solution rate is 100% but only because there have been zero crimes), he looks for the odd lost dog, he returns errant teenagers home, he eats the odd doughnut. You read and wonder if Tom Gauld read Michel Faber’s last novel, The Book of Strange New Things, as they seem to have a lot in common. You may also read and wonder if Gauld is a fan of the Japanese actor and film director Beat Takeshi as the pair of them share a fondness for stasis – except where Takeshi has his ruminant hitmen sit at bars and stare into space, Gauld has his Mooncop look out of the window at the stars. He asks to come home and his request is denied. Machines fail. People go. Eventually… Well, eventually another person arrives just in time to provide some company. You might even go so far as to wonder if it’s a happy ending.
Hearing about all of the things that happen in the book, though, is like being told about this flower. It’s kind of blue, you know, but not blue like the sky, more of a purple-y blue and it has yellow filaments at its centre and it smells sort of flower-y, you know how flowers do, with their scent and what not. If you feel like the last three lines brought the violet to life for you, then quite possibly you have enough joy in your life and don’t need to read Mooncop. If, however, you got what I was trying to do, can see that there is quite a distance between the words on this screen and the artefact itself, then possibly you should dip your toe into the water and give Tom Gauld and Mooncop a read. If you do, we think you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Any Cop?: We’ve already read it three times. Each time we fall into a languor like sleep and emerge as if from a sad dream. Gauld conjures beautiful worlds that we would like to live in. Mooncop is about as essential as it gets.