Update – 27 April 2022: Author John Renzella has reached out and advised that Solitude is available for purchase from his website. I have added a link at the bottom of this review.
Before I dig into The Sunderland, Volume 2: Solitude (or, for the sake of simplicity from here on out, simply Solitude), I can’t tell you where you can buy it, not can I for volume 1, Schism (be sure to check out my review of Schism right here). After following some links, it looks Schism was once available for purchase on Etsy, however the seller is no longer listed on there. Which is a shame; both these books are worth your time, but finding them may be somewhat problematic.
If you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you may have seen me comment on a fear I have with reviewing sequels: if the sequel is too similar to its predecessor, what more will I have to say? This is one such instance; made even more difficult, thanks to its lack of ongoing narrative. If you have read Schism, you will know exactly what to expect with Solitude. If you have read my review of Schism, you will have a very good idea of my thoughts about Solitude.
Still with me? Maybe you didn’t read my Schism review, or maybe you just like to see me repeating myself. Much like its predecessor, Solitude is an absolutely stunning graphic novel. Jon Renzella’s woodcut artwork, presented in black and white is nothing short of astounding. While the art in Schism was a delight to behold, he has truly outdone himself here. With (roughly, since I can’t find a release date for Solitude) seven years between volumes, I can’t say whether it is a case of Renzella spending more time on Solitude’s art, or simply more experience, but he has truly outdone himself here. Even if you’re not interested in the words inside this book, it is worth picking up just to drool over the imagery.
Renzella has written Solitude on its own, without the assistance of co-writer Eric Weiss. The style of the writing is largely the same, and of the same quality as Schism. The one major difference I can see—and I have no idea of telling if this was Weiss’ influence or not—is that Solitude is not broken up into chapters. It’s a small thing, but much like its predecessor, there is no strong narrative cohesion through Solitude. Where the first volume’s chapters helped guide the reader through this, Solitude lacks this.
The result of this approach is a book that feels like a stream of consciousness. Once again, the story bounces around its various groups of characters, which again includes corporations destroying the environment, a media pushing its propaganda and telling the world its a good thing, a government deeming environmentalists as terrorists, an overzealous military and religious cults. Throughout, Renzella builds this world, moving the story forward via a sequence of vignettes, instead of providing an overarching narrative following the characters.
Throughout its 362 pages (a decent reduction from Schism’s 450), this approach works well. It puts the reader right into this world and its allegorical satire. The wit is sharp, and should have you chuckling along with it, while also shaking your head at the reflection of the world we live in.
As all this wry commentary comes together through its vignettes, Solitude is a thing of beauty. It presents a world that, for all of its problems, feels real, lived in, and as similar as it is to our own, beautiful. Yes, the art helps convey this, but so does the writing.
As I’ve noted above, Solitude is the second volume in the Sunderland series. Reading Schism beforehand is an absolute must; you need to read it if you want to be able to follow along. This is a book that doesn’t hold your hand through its own narrative, and it certainly doesn’t do anything to catch new readers up on its predecessor. And like Schism before it, Solitude ends suddenly, leaving the reader waiting for the next volume. If the gap between Schism and Solitude is any indication, if you were to read these books now, you would be waiting for about seven years for the final entry.
Much like Schism before it, Solitude is an experience. It lacks cohesion and instead focuses on presenting its themes by interconnected vignettes exploring its world. Without chapters providing breaks throughout it, it feels not just like a stream of consciousness, but like a dream. A dream with dark undercurrents bubbling from the surface, threatening to become a nightmare. Between its words and stunning images, it reflects our world’s beauty, and the threat humanity poses to it, as well as ourselves. While I wish it had a stronger plot and narrative behind it, it is still more than worthy of your time.
The Sunderland, Volume Two: Solitude was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.
Solitude will presumably be available to purchase. If I find out where, I will update the review to include it.
You can follow Jon Renzella online, via:
Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:
- Amazon – Review to be added in the event this book is listed