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Have I Mentioned Recently That :01 Books Are The Best?

Just checking, on account of not matter how often I say that :01 Books are the best, it’s not often enough.

See, I got an envelope in the mail yesterday from :01, a thin one that made me think it was the catalog of upcoming releases ’cause they don’t do books that lack for heft. Instead, I found inside a early pair of excertps of Gene Luen Yang’s forthcoming books, Boxers and Saints, due in September. Together, the two books tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion from opposite viewpoints — the first from the POV young man looking to expel the foreign powers from China, the second from that of a young woman who converted to Catholicism and is much a target for death as any European.

Given the size of the two books (more than 500 pages total), I wasn’t expecting review copies; 16 pages of Boxers form one half of the flip booklet, 16 pages of Saints the other, each tells just enough of a scene to grab the reader and make them want to know more. Both stories are drenched in the supernatural, although it’s not possible to tell from the brief fractions of story how much of that may be metaphorical.

Bao and his fellow Boxers appear to transform themselves into literal gods to fight their enemies; Vibiana the convert has conversations with Joan of Arc¹ that are more detailed than she likely could have learned from the priest that lives in her community. Whatever degree to which these heavenly warriors actually involve themselves in this corner of China circa 1900, Vibiana and Bao believe it to be true.

And in a way, I suspect that what they perceive to be true is true enough; in this fight between nations, and expressions of national will, individual peasant and village folk must have viewed the conflict as being so much larger than themselves, something that could only be explained as a clash of two distinct heavens to determine for good and all who holds sway over China². Yang has melded his own Catholic faith with his Chinese heritage in past works³, so it will be interesting to see how he approaches each of those ancient traditions as warring opponents.

We’ll know soon enough, as it turns out that more than 500 pages in two volumes (plus a deluxe box set) is just slightly more complex than your standard graphic novel, so :01 Book are using the sampler as an early peek until they can send actual books out to their review list this summer. Many thanks to them in advance, and we’ll have more to say about Boxers and Saints when the full copies arrive.

¹ Who herself had conversations with people that weren’t entirely there.

² If there’s ever an audiobook, Daniel Day-Lewis needs to narrate.

³ Particularly in American Born Chinese, which managed to intersect Journey to the West with the Nativity of Jesus.

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