The Dormant Beast by Enki Bilal is a hauntingly beautiful and frightening story.
Picture an alternate New York City in 2023.
Nike, a Yugoslav war orphan, has an amazingly powerful memory. In fact, his memory is so powerful that he can remember almost everything from his birth up to the present!
Driven by a personal quest to fulfill a promise he made in Sarajevo –when he was just a few days old. Nike strives to go further back in his memory to find his fellow orphans –Amir and Leyla.
Unbeknownst to all three, their lives are already intertwined. The schemes of a dangerous fundamentalist organization tie them all together. Targeted for extermination or conversion, our orphans must venture into a dark conspiracy. A conspiracy that wants to snuff out the light of culture and science –everywhere.
Because knowledge has been brought to mankind. In the form of a signal from the stars. The Obscurantis Order will do everything to stop this from becoming known.
The Dormant Beast is a story about memory and how it shapes us –past, present and future.
Part meditation on the madness that tore Yugoslavia apart in the early 90’s. Part Sci-Fi action thriller. Part commentary on fundamentalism of all stripes.
Enki Bilal is one of the modern grandmasters of Franco-Belgian graphic fiction. Read on to see why The Dormant Beast is one of his best works and a must read graphic novel….
Welcome to NYC 2023 –A Son of Sarajevo and His Quest
The world has moved on. Flying cars in every city. Androids walking about. With bio-nanotech that can create machines the size of insects.
Nike Hatzfeld doesn’t care about any of that. He consumed by his past and a promise. Having become a wealthy man thanks to his amazing memory. His every waking moment is spent focused on his obsession. Going back further and further in his memory.
To get the family names of Leyla and Amir. His ‘bunk mates’ in the Sarajevo hospital he was brought to. After his father was murdered in Sniper Alley during the Balkan War.
Nike swore to protect them all. And he intends to keep that promise.
When his ex-girlfriend Pamela Fisher suddenly wants to meet up –Nike is wary. She went missing three month ago. But he goes to meet her. Nike’s perfect memory sends him a warning. Both Pamela and her grotesque companion are both android replicas. Suddenly, the FBII’s ‘Keihlin’ unit flies in and starts shooting. The replicas are destroyed and Nike’s nose is broken.
Waking up in hospital. Nike is grilled by FBII agent Lieutenant Cobbea. Apparently Nike has been targeted by the fundamentalist terror organization the Obscurantis Order. The replicates where sent to ‘subdue’ and ‘copy’ Nike cell by cell. All to get his unique memory for the terrorists cause.
The Obscurantis Order is a nightmarish coalition of religious fundamentalists and international crime syndicates. Their goals is to wipe out all science and culture. Because, in their twisted worldview, those things get in the way of worshiping God.
The Order has been getting more aggressive than usual lately. They also seem to have gotten hold of some fairly advanced weaponry.
And Nike’s nose won’t stop hurting. And the name of doctor who rebuilt it is a classified military secret.
The Orphan Girl, an Old Israeli Warrior and the Stars
Switch to Leyla.
She’s an Astrophysicist working on the Hubble 4 space telescope. After a short visit with her adoptive father in the Nefud desert. She come back to her post only to find herself the target of the Order. Leyla has information the terrorists want.
Trapped in space, will she survive to see her father fulfill his life-long dream?
An Agnostic Muslim Meets the Neo-Taliban
Amir lives in Moscow with his girlfriend Sacha. After having his career as a professional soccer goalkeeper cut short by an injury. He drifted into a life of petty crime.
Sacha comes home with good news. She’s got them both a sweet new gig that comes with plenty of money. And they get to wear the cool ‘Keihlin’ combat suites that the FBII uses. While Amir is hesitant and cautious about the identify of their new employer. He won’t let Sacha go alone.
Before they know it, Sacha and Amir are headed to an Obscurantis Order training camp in Siberia.
Will Amir survive indoctrination by the fundamentalists? Can he save Sacha from a fate worse than death?
Why has the Obscurantis Order decided to start their jihad against reason right now?
What secret does Hubble 4 hold that has gotten the powers that be up in a huff?
And will Nike, Amir and Leyla ever be re-united?
The Art and Writing of The Dormant Beast
Enki Bilal is a brilliant novelist first. Anybody who doubts that graphic novels are part of literature should read one of his works.
The Dormant Beast is a fascinating story. An exiled child trying to process the brutal senselessness of a horrible conflict. Bilal is the son of a Bosnian Muslim father and grew up in France. The Balkan War and its consequences have clearly affected him deeply.
And he keeps pointing out one of the most overlooked tragedies of the war. That Serbs, Croats and Muslims could not tell the difference between each other. That separations only exist in names, culture and historical baggage.
Nike keeps being asked if he is Serb, Croat or Muslim. He never answers. Amir tells the Order that he doesn’t much care for religion. That he can pass for Serb or Croat and sometimes Slovak, Macedonian, Kosovar and etc. And that it’s helpful to him to do this. To never get trapped in identities imposed by other people.
The writing of The Dormant Beast is captivating, with a well-paced story. Bilal manages some surprising plot twists and turns. He also has a wonderfully horrifying vision of future technology.
His art work is breathtaking. Few graphic novels are as stylishly and lovingly illustrated as The Dormant Beast. Bilal’s visuals look more like living paintings at times than sequential story telling. I love the rough edged solidity of his style!
If you like Sci-Fi, alternative futures and fiction that makes you think The Dormant Beast is for you!
It takes an investigation of the Balkan War and wraps them in a wonderfully dark Sci-Fi thriller. If you have never sampled Enki Bilal’s work before –this is the place to start!
Deep, fun and satisfying. Get it today!