By Rian Hughes
XX is a textual-space odyssey that takes one of the oldest tropes in SF – initial contact with intelligent alien life, this time in the form of a signal received by radio telescope – and dresses it up in a crazy riot of graphic design.
Rian Hughes, a British artist and illustrator, has tricked his book out with a full bag of visual stunts and gimmicks. Text is arranged every which way on the page while different fonts and eccentric glyphs come and go. There are pictures, email exchanges, sheets of computer code, cut-and-paste Wikipedia pages, and pretty much everything else you can think of.
The circus-like atmosphere, which has drawn comparison to Mark Z. Danielewski’s cult hit House of Leaves, effectively underlines the theme of sorting signal from noise, but at nearly 1,000 pages it can also be overwhelming. If you hang on though you can expect an interesting exploration of the possibility of ideas having a physical reality, and of memes made flesh.