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Life On Earth

Stepan Chapman

Four-Sep Publications

US Chapbook First


Publication Date: 10-01-2003

40 Pages; Price: $5.00 ($9.00 Overseas) Postpaid

Date Reviewed: 01-27-04

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2004



Science Fiction, General Fiction


Science fiction writers who illustrate their own work -- for adults -- are a rare breed. The exploding sales of graphic novels, of coffee-table fiction with color plates by famous science-fiction artists, the popularity of manga, the unrestrained explosion of children's and young adult literature have left little room for other illustrated literature. In fact, it's almost hard to imagine that there could be anything else. But if there could be anything else, chances are that it would be Stepan Chapman who would dream it up.

Chapman's novel 'The Troika' won the Philip K. Dick award, and unlike many worthy works that win the same accolade, it was seriously weird, bordering on inexplicable. Chapman's back with a new chapbook, and he once again delves straight into seriously, uncategorizably weird. 'Life on Earth' is an apocalyptic parable, Doctor Seuss channeling Stanislaw Lem. It's remarkably cheap, nicely printed, illustrated by the author and darker than the day is long.

Put simply, 'Life on Earth' is the adventures of 'Life on Earth', which is treated as a character with multitudinous, ungainly forms. It starts out depressed, and things get both better and worse from there. The format is an 8.5" x 7" chapbook, printed and illustrated in black and white with a stapled center. The illustrations are quite reminiscent of the drawings found in Stanislaw Lem's Ijon Tichy stories; weird distorted black and white figures from Shel Silverstein's nightmare. They're quite effective, both mirroring and enhancing Chapman's polemic about the fate of Life on Earth.

You'll read this book in about 15 minutes, and re-read it many times thereafter. It lends itself to being read aloud to an audience, so try to make sure you have a willing audience when you do so. And even though Chapman's format is that of a Doctor Seuss-style kids book, this is unquestionably a polemic parable for adults. It's not that kids won't understand it, but they may not be as prepared to enjoy the depths of depression it will inspire as adults will.

'Life on Earth' is not going to be easy to find, but it's worth the search. If all else fails, $5.00 ($9.00 overseas) sent to Four-Sep Publications, PO Box 86, Friendship, IN, 47021, USA will get you a copy. If you find the concept of an apocalyptic Doctor Seuss parable intriguing, you'd do well to get yourself a copy of this truly oddball chapbook.