This past week was all about the moon. We continue to reach out to every poet’s favourite celestial body that lights up our night sky, and maybe someday our species will find a way to colonise it too. Tom Gauld’s Mooncop imagines that scenario and goes beyond – told from the perspective of a nameless lunar policeman on the moon who goes about his days, solving petty problems of the few remaining inhabitants.
Gauld said in an interview, “The moon colony is not a futuristic utopia but it's also not really a dystopia, it's sort of in between”, which is what makes the experience of spending time with this book more interesting. It’s a hyperreal but mundane place.
At its core, Mooncop is a meditation on isolation and dreamy languor – every page is steeped in melancholia that’s both brittle and contemplative. Spoken words are few and far between; if you have the time and can sit with this book in a quiet place and stare at each of its panels for long, you’ll realise how effortlessly you’re immersed in its hushed, expansive world.
Automated machines keep malfunctioning, the crime rate is zero, the local museum is closing down, and robots are still replacing human beings in their jobs – it’s like an odd junction between hell and earth stuck in limbo. Nearly everyone you meet here is seen in motion, yet each of them seem to be in a state of endless waiting. In that sense, it’s a Covid book which isn’t about Covid, because all of us have gone through a similar experience during that period.
Towards the end, the officer remarks: “Since I was a boy I’ve dreamed about being a cop and living on the moon. But now I’m here, it seems like the party’s over and everybody’s going home.” And soon after, goes on to make a somewhat meaningful human connection that adds just that extra dash of hope to his day which might help him sustain a little longer. What Gauld seems to say is, machines will fail you eventually, the outer space won’t be a utopian la–la land, but we’ll get by as long as we have someone to share it with. Someone, and doughnuts!