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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Tales From The Inner City by Shaun Tan

The companion to Tales from Outer Suburbia, this collection of illustrated short stories will absolutely delight Shaun Tan fans of all ages.

The world-renowned artist applies his unique imagination to a reflection on the nature of humans and animals, and our urban coexistence. It’s a dark and surreal exploration of the love and destruction we both feel and inflict. Stories of how animals can save us, and how are lives are forever entwined, for better or for worse.

Each of the 25 stories or poems included in the collection is deeply imagined and evocative. From snails making love on the road, to alligators dwelling in office buildings, foxes ready to invade your privacy, and glowing moonfish that dwell in the sky, each story makes you think. While reading, it’s hard not to reflect on your relationship with animals and to ponder your place in the world. For many stories it is easy to view the animals as metaphors for other aspects of our modern world. Did Tan imagine the fox to be a metaphor for internet security and privacy concerns; are the alligators really lawyers?

The stories masterfully reflect both our human nature and our fragile relationship with our world. Yet somehow Tan manages to make the stories so unique and surreal, that each reading can offer up a whole new understanding. It begs to be read again and again.

Tan’s incredible short stories are accompanied by stunning paintings that depict the connections human and animals have. Each picture builds on the story even more, adding a whole new dimension and understanding to the words. They are deeply moving, poignant and sophisticated.

This is Tan truly at his absolute best. Cicada, the first book Tan had published in five years, was rereleased earlier this year. While an exquisite work, it was just a hint at the masterpiece that was coming. The animal-human theme in Cicada makes me wonder if the picture book was originally destined for Tales from The Inner City.

This surreal book for both adult and children is an incredible, thought-provoking anthology. It will inspire, without being moralising, and promote deep thinking. It is a wonderful return by Tan that left me aching for more.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin, RRP $39.99


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