Secrets of Jarrow
Secrets of Jarrow
That old geezer gives me the creeps. How long has he been here?
Longer than any of us – some say since Jarrow was founded soon after the collapse.
All he cares about is this pile of junk. And his great work!
A history of the Golden Age. That’s what all this is about – trying to piece together the past. So he can write his book.
Teknos says the history only exists in the old tek. “Pre-Cloud” he calls it.
Before the cloud. Yep. That’s why so much late tek is useless, but finding the early stuff – that’s my bread and butter!
Teknos says almost everything was lost –
It was! Idiots! A whole generation of knowledge, trusted to the cloud and wiped out by the vapour virus.
I forgot. His hearing is still good…
The year is 2103, and the world has been destroyed by climate change, crop failure, and a huge technology crash. In this post-apocalyptic world where chaos and anarchy reign, a hero emerges, trying to put together the pieces of his past.
When we first meet our hero, Mordecai Crow, he is trying to find refuge amidst a snow storm and makes his way to Jarrow, a Firewall community of Gnostics who are protectors of ancient knowledge and culture. As Mordecai has a special way with old technology, he is put in the care of Teknos and Podd, Jarrow’s Archivist and his assistant, who take Mordecai under their wings and teach him how to document and research the past.
Things take a turn for the worse a week into Mordecai’s arrival as Gabriella, the gardener, is murdered in the compound and Mordecai is the chief suspect. With the help of Podd, his confidante and friend, Mordecai goes about trying to prove his innocence and begins unraveling secrets about Jarrow and himself in the process. Chief amongst them is the fact that Mordecai was born a Gnostic but was raised by Luddites, a right-wing group of anti-tech fundamentalists who are intent on destroying knowledge of the past.
To make matters worse, Mordecai and Podd discover that Jarrow was once the site of a large corporation that created genetically modified seeds that wiped out other crops and led to widespread famine. However, farmers at the time secretly stored old world grains under the Jarrow Archives to ensure their preservation. Teknos, who was charged with keeping this secret, killed Gabriella after she became aware of this fact.
Once order is restored and the murder is solved, Mordecai is given the chance to stay on at Jarrow as their Head Archivist, but he declines, preferring to continue his quest to find out more about his family. Joined by Podd, Mordecai embarks on his next journey which nicely sets up book two of this proposed trilogy.
Brimming with fast paced action and plenty of suspense, Secrets of Jarrow is a nice addition to the post-apocalyptic graphic novel genre. Slavin has taken very real-world issues and shows us what can happen if we do not change our ways. But, as Slavin himself notes in the foreword, this book is not about climate change; “it is simply a story of one young man’s quest, set in the landscape of a collapsing world.”
Although the storyline follows the typical hero’s journey, young adult readers will be captivated by Slavin’s dark and moody illustrations. His colour palette of grey, brown, and indigo adds a very eerie quality to the graphic novel which heightens the reader's suspense.
Overall, Secrets of Jarrow is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I, for one, cannot wait for book two.
Teresa Iaizzo is a Librarian with the Toronto Public Library.