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.

4 thoughts on “XX

  1. See, this just sounds very pretentious to me. I don’t mind if an author/artist wants to try something “experimental” but for 1000 pages? Reading something like this would make me feel like a guinea pig instead of a reader 😦


    1. It is a bit too much. I really like Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but he’s a good storyteller. I got the feeling that Hughes was making a little go a long way here, and some of it seemed unnecessary. If you like the experimental stuff though it’s worth checking out of the library (if I remember it’s quite an expensive book).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll have to pass. I’m not a fan of experimental and I know our library is cutting way back on their book buying. A lot more of their budget is going towards computers and internet for those who don’t have it available.


      2. The same is happening to libraries everywhere. Which makes some sense as they have so many books that are never being signed out now. But that does make annual “friends of the library” book sales a lot of fun!

        Liked by 1 person

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