Alright, our review today is Robot Dreams, an interesting little examination of friendships, and what happens when they are unexpectedly challenged. Sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, but I actually had a rather nice time with this book. Please, read on…
Robot Dreams is the story of a dog and a robot, who are friends. In fact, mister dog actually built mister robot to be his friend; and for a short while they lived in platonic bliss. Then came an infortunate beach incident in which they were separated indefinitely. We follow robot and dog as they deal with the loss, each in their own creative way. Be warned: if you’re not careful with this book, you just might learn something insightful about yourself!!!
You may have noticed that I didn’t capitalize robot or dog in the above description. That is because robot and dog are not (as far as I know) the proper names of our main characters. You see, Robot Dreams is one of these very interesting books that attempts to tell a full, complex story with pictures alone. That’s right – Robot Dreams is wordless. And it’s totally winning.
Quick sidebar: I had the great pleasure of reading another ‘wordless’ comic about a year ago, the truly beautiful Arrival by Shaun Tan. A note about The Arrival: it can be enjoyed and appreciated by virtually everyone, regardless of their comics experience. It’s a little bit of sequential art genius that truly transcends the genre, into the literary-work-of-art class. Do check it out. Anyway…
Ok, Robot Dreams is not completely wordless – there are a couple titles or signs in the panels that help clarify the plot a little – but you can safely say it’s dialogue-less. Absolutely no word bubbles here! And surprisingly, the narrative doesn’t suffer for it. Sara Varon expertly communicates complex emotions through both the careful plotting of her panels, and the subtle-yet-obvious expressions she paints across the faces of her characters. But more about that later…
As far as graphic novels go, Robot Dreams is a pretty safe wager. For one: it’s an extremely quick read. If you were hung over and spending the day on the couch, you could fully enjoy this book in under 2 hours, and – satisfied – dive right into the next thing. But also, Robot Dreams isn’t terribly mentally challenging – it’s more aimed at your soft, emotional mass of amygdala, which it hits squarely.
One other note: Your library or bookstore may file this book in the Young Adult section, or (god forbid) the Children’s Fiction section. I say, let that worry you not. Much like The Arrival, this is one of those special works that sorta defies classification. The shelf-stockers may have mistakenly underestimate it. But now you know the truth. 🙂
Sara Varon is one of those (in my humble opinion) geniuses, who can A: concoct an engaging story; B: figure out how to frame said story for greatest impact, and C: illustrate this carefully constructed narrative in an appealing and descriptive way.
Now, I’ll concede that some readers might not love Varon’s illustrations – they do tend towards the ‘cartoony’ end of the comics spectrum. But with an open mind, I think Varon’s scenes should be quickly embraced – if for nothing else than the sheer weight of their charm. Sara Varon has an unrivaled knack for drawing sweet characters that you will emotionally glom to, without even realizing it. I don’t think you can help but get emotionally invested in this book.
In summary, Robot Dreams is an adorable exploration of the curious experience of a blossoming relationship and what happens when it’s nipped in the bud by unforeseen circumstances. Cute and resonant story + subtly brilliant illustrations = a solid 7 out of 10 for Robot Dreams.
Definitely happy reading with this one!