I’ll start off by saying that I passionately hated this graphic novel. That I reacted so strongly and negatively on a visceral level yet am rating this 5 stars really is a testament to the writing and illustration talent. For what we have with Junction True is a raw, scathing, and horrifying look at society; one that unflinchingly rips off scabs hiding the jaded ennui of our modern age. After finishing this fully contained story, expect to feel queasy, questioning, and perhaps worried about how we view love and relationships today and tomorrow.
Story: In the near future, the young and rebellious have opted for the ‘tattoos/piercings’ of the 21st century: neumods. The most popular surgeries are genetically modified parasite insertions: hallucinogenic aphids released through tears, phosphorescent tape worms, leech lines, gmod mites – if you want a cool parasite, you can get one specially made for you and show how anarchic you are. In this world Dirk is a decent guy who falls for hard for Teralyn. She’s beautiful and mysterious, a heady mix for the young punk. But she only wants one thing from him – absolute surrender to become the her ultimate parasite. She gives him a week to decide on a special procedure that would forever bond him to her – to become a puppet whose only source of food would be Teralyn. While he decides, his best friend Naoko is researching Neumod disaster stories (surgeries gone wrong) and is disgusted at what Dirk is attempting to do. And should Teralyn become bored with her parasite puppet, Naoko will take things into her own hands….
At its heart, this is a story about the nature of love. People will likely become fixated on the S&M type of angle of a puppet but that is the effect, not the cause. Why Dirk wholeheartedly agrees to the procedure and his unconditional surrender to become a parasite to Teralyn is the exploration done by the author. Taken a bit deeper, Dirk and Teralyn are pure Id and Naoko is the super ego attempting to ground Dirk. It is the stream of consciousness of the future and it is disturbing. Add in instant updating blogs on the procedures and research by Dirk and Naoko and author Fawkes has nailed the zeitgeist of the future.
The illustrations are beautiful and scary – dreamy and water color hazy. From goth to punk, fantasy to horror, they tell the story in ways that make absolute sense – and further the unease. Naoko’s grounded black to Teralyn’s dreamy blue – this is a daydream in the color of a bruise.
The horror of the story, the vilest thing of all, is the complete and utter debasement of Dirk by Teralyn in demanding the operation. The procedure – the ultimate puppet parasite, and the flippant manner she treats the operation in contrast to the all-or-nothing drive by Dirk is very unsettling. Driving home the horror, the procedure is given specific details both in dialogue and then in images. This is definitely not for the faint of heart and I ended the read feeling absolutely sick to my stomach. Not from the physical scenes but from the callous and thorough destruction of Dirk and everything that entailed.
Naoko’s interviews of neumod victims are interesting as well – all kinds of horrific scarring after neumod operations gone wrong (worms eating half the face off, ruined limbs, etc.). Cunningly, author Fawkes slots the interviews into the 5 stages of grief, from acceptance to anger. The payoff comes in the end when Naoko reflects on Dirk and Teralyn and the neumod scene.
Of note, I’ve read a few interviews of the author/reviews and I have to admit, I feel like people are missing the point of the book. Silly comparisons calling this “50 Shades meets The Matrix” or discussions about this being an S&M title so completely swim at the shallowest of interpretations as to be kind of sad (and I admit I felt sorry for the author for having to field some really ridiculous questions about the puppet procedure). Really read close and I think it becomes obvious that Junction True is about relationships: a morphing definition of love and the marginalization/corruption of connection and intimacy in the 21st century.
The parasite fad in Junction True can easily be summed up as the ultimate lover in a technologically connected and emotionally disconnected world: a partner who will never leave you because it is fully dependent upon you. The question is – is that what we really want or need? The answers in this book to that question is the scariest thing of all. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.