Part art book, part novella, “The Electric State” by Simon Stålenhag is a fascinating and bleak look into a bizarre alternate history 90s America. Physically larger than a typical hardcover book, most pages within are dominated by wide scenic vistas of a state in decline, beset by a slow moving catastrophe only mentioned in passing by the narrator, a teenage girl named Michelle. The story follows her and a robot named Skip as they make their way to the West Coast following a map to… something.
Their journey is tense as they pass wrecks of giant robots, airships, and abandoned suburbia, with Michelle occasionally teasing out the events of the decline. More and more, advertisements and corporate infrastructure dominate the landscape, stark in contrast to the wilderness and open road. These brief snapshots of the world tend to raise more questions than they answer. If I had to pin a genre down, I would say this is a horror story. Something is happening, and you’re not sure why or how, but it is big, and it is coming. The excellent art enhances the text, giving it all a great sense of scale, awe, dread, and wonder. Reading this had me spellbound.
You can reserve a copy of “The Electric State” by Simon Stålenhag here!