Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Happy place. Happy place. Happy place. Happy place."
"Oh no. Not here. Please."
Nope, not me having to calm down Stephen after another month of grinding through the PREVIEWS order form, but, poor young Remco, an unwilling repeat patron of the peculiar titular establishment which is most assuredly not a destination that is ever going to make a list of top tourist destinations, despite every room having a spectacular view.
No, after being apparently abducted by a UFO on the 1st March 1981 and promptly returned back to terra firma safely, if not entirely intact, Remco's having a very specific issue. For he keeps finding himself zoning out and seemingly waking up back in the cloud hotel, a strange morphing building floating gently on the surface of the cumulus, with the vertical stabilisers of passing aeroplanes poking through, and inhabited by other kids who have also been taken.
At least to start with... For as time passes, one by one the residents answer a phone call from the old-style pay phone in a horrifically retro wallpapered room, receiving their summons to be called through the similarly papered double doors, never to be seen again, until only Remco and the sunglasses-wearing Emma remain. They are fabulous sunglasses actually, I must add, with a magic all of their own that immediately transported me back in time myself to 1982 and a certain Tizer advert, which, I'm quite sure more than a few others of you of a certain age will still have burnt into the back of the brains somewhere. You can keep your Fanta and your Irn Bru, Tizer was always the top of the t-shirt staining pops for me.
Right, I appear to have digressed... So, there are two burning questions, one each for Emma and Remco. Remco, who having seen people willingly perambulate through those disorientatingly decorated doors and promptly disappear, steadfastedly refuses to answer the phone when the bell tolls for him. That might be why he is the only person who dissipates back to Earth, but also possibly why he keeps re-materialising in the hotel. Walking through that exit might solve his conundrum for him, but he's not prepared to take the risk that he might end up... somewhere else. Emma, on the other hand, is utterly baffled as to why the phone never rings for her at all... Clearly there is something different about them both, but what?! What they are finding it increasingly hard to ignore, however, is that the hotel is gradually changing and becoming ever more distorted and unstable...
Back on the ground meanwhile, the one person who is convinced that Remco hasn't gone a bit doolalley, and believes him completely about the aliens and the cloud hotel, is his Granddad, but sadly he's about to take a certain, somewhat final, journey of his own... Not that he's remotely sad about it at all, no. Not least because he has his own theories about Remco's little excursions...
Ahhh... the auteur behind one of my favourite graphic novels of all time, TIM GINGER, returns with another unfathomable and perplexing work to beguile us! Yes, Julian Hanshaw has once again produced a story that takes us in entirely unexpected and unsignposted directions which is precisely what great writers do. Inspired by an encounter of his own as a young lad with a UFO on the 26th October 1980 near the implausible named market town of Tring in leafy Hertfordshire (I always knew there was something about the Chiltern Hills...) this tale of blurred states of consciousness vibrating between imagination and reality will make you want to believe!
The fact that Remco during his initial... encounter... manages to bring back a shred of the offending wallpaper only serves to deepen the mystery about precisely where it is that he keeps going. That disconcerting of wallpaper, by the way, is lovingly recreated under the front and rear French flaps for your pleasure... I love to see that, not a single bit of space wasted in transporting the reader somewhere else entirely too!
As before, Julian's meticulous attention to detail with his unique style of fine-lined art, combined with the muted yet almost luminous colour palette, plus some ingenious panel and page compositional devices thrown in for good measure make this a strong contender for my top book of the year.