Book Review: Ball Peen Hammer

Ball Peen HammerTitle: Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp
Genre: Dystopian, Graphic Novel, Horror, Science Fiction
Pages: 144
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: 29th September 2009
Rating: ★★★★½

The world is dying. After most of the city succumbed to the plague, Welton's staying inside -- permanently. But hiding in his claustrophobic basement room -- the only place he knows is safe -- exacts a gruesome price, and he becomes part of a collective that's killing children.

Infected with the plague himself, with no way to find the woman he loves, Welton takes refuge in apathy -- until someone knocks on his door. Ball Peen Hammer gives us a window into life in a half-deserted apartment building in a time of raw love, sacrifice, fear, and death.

This book is a bit of an odd one to review.  The themes are so dark that giving it a high score feels dirty somehow, but it has too many merits to ignore.

The setting was a fairly typical dystopian landscape, where we meet our lead living in a stench-filled basement.  As he is joined by a journalist writing about the atrocities of life for these people, we learn through their conversations that there is a gruesome operation at work.  Meanwhile, living in the same building is a young pregnant woman searching for the father of her child among the poor, disease-stricken population.

The illustrations do an excellent job in creating a disgusting, dirty atmosphere – it didn’t take much to imagine those awful smells trapped in the basement.  They also helped to ground the story very much in the horror genre.  I read the book at night and definitely went to bed feeling just a little disturbed by what I had experienced.

Though the cliffhanger ending made me go searching for a volume two (there isn’t one), the lack of closure seems reminiscent of the world they live in.  I’d like to think that both characters somehow made it, but after reading about the terrible conditions inside and out of the building, it’s somehow hard to believe.

Overall, Ball Peen Hammer is not a lighthearted read that will bring you any kind of joy, but if you love horror then this book will certainly give your moral compass a fright – what is right and wrong when the world has warped beyond recognition?

Star Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5/5)

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