This stunning book is simultaneously the most beautiful and eerily horrifying book I’ve read so far this year. Set in a near future Britain, where a fear of immigration has brought an Orwellian right-wing dictatorship into power, it’s a frightening scenario of worst case possible futures that, in a world of political uncertainty, feels all too possible.
Francesca is an artist, living far north of the political machinations of the capital. However, she’s chosen to create a huge mural, designed to be the centrepiece of a gigantic municipal swimming pool, itself intended to be a showcase of the government’s altruistic attitude to its citizens. However, Francesca isn’t chosen because of the brilliance of her artistic skills, but because she’s considered a safe pair of hands, with no links to the revolutionary left who are waging an increasingly violent civil war against the regime. Plucked from her country idyll and put under armed guard, while under orders to create the perfect work of art (under a strict set of guidelines), she flounders. Meanwhile, the revolution never sleeps…
James Albon has followed up his brilliant Her Bark and Her Bite with a tight, charming script, bursting with brilliant characters, from naive Francesca to the bitter, wheelchair-bound Minister of Culture. With revolutionaries on one side and the dictatorship on the other, Francesca finds herself pulled in both directions, with everyone wanting her as a cog in their political machines.
The art isn’t as bright and airy as Her Bark and Her Bite, with the dark metropolis casting a significant shadow over the colours. However, Albon’s breezy, casual style maintains a lightness of touch around the illustration, with a typically British style that captures the magic of Posy Simmonds and Raymond Briggs.
If you thought James Albon showed promise before, this seals the deal. A Shining Beacon is a fantastic book, extrapolating British current affairs into a dystopian nightmare. It’s on point, superbly written, joyously illustrated and a pleasure to read.