4 out of 4 stars
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Of Zots and Xoodles by Zarqnon the Embarrassed is a sort of fairy-tale about the birth of the universe. Using a mix of metaphors and jokes, and with the help of many images, the authors put together science and art to show the possible steps that led from nothing to the universe as we know it.
This is quite a unique little book, so I think you need some background about its writer and its illustrator. Zarqnon The Embarrassed is the pen name used by JW McLaughlin, whose interests are quite diverse going from science to music. He's on the autistic spectrum, so his perception and his descriptions of what surrounds him can be quite unusual for non-autistic people. Frank Louis Allen is an illustrator who suffers from a degenerative eye condition that makes him legally blind, but that didn't stop him from expressing his art. He's also on the autistic spectrum, and that makes his drawings unique.
It's easy to see how the two authors might have created something unique putting together their skills. The birth of the universe is told in a way I've never seen, and I've been reading scientific essays for more than 30 years. Here on OnlineBookClub, it was included in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category. Online bookstores included it in categories connected to science and books for teenagers. It reminded me of a fairy-tale because of the types of metaphors used by the writer, the plays on words such as "spice and thyme" instead of "space and time", and the images quite different from the diagrams you can find in your usual essay.
The scientific element is important in this book, but its unique style requires the readers to use more than their rational skills to get it. The text's phrasing, the style of the images, and even how text and images are mixed up without a precise pattern. Those contents make it a piece of art to experience as much as an essay to understand rationally. You need to go for a full immersion, allowing the authors to guide you through it.
This is a short book you can read quickly, but that's not the point. After reading it the first time, I realized that I felt the need to read it again to fully appreciate it. You could say that the first reading is the one that just shocks you with its unusual contents. When you reread it, you learn to follow the stream of text and images enjoying it.
I found Of Zots and Xoodles original and beautifully written, with just a couple of little editing problems, and illustrated, so my rating is 4 out of 4 stars. However, for its characteristics, it's not for everyone. Teenagers and adults with an interest in science and art are probably the ones who can appreciate it the most.
Of Zots and Xoodles
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