The simple premise of Tom Gauld’s Mooncop hides a subtle exploration of what it means to live an ordinary life, without judgment and with concern over what happens when technology overtakes it.
The title character is a police officer on the moon, when everyone else is leaving. He files meaningless reports and interacts with the machines that have replaced people at the donut shop and the minimart. Everyone’s got bubble helmets, like the old visions of the future, even the dog the old lady neighbor walks.
Gauld’s pacing is deliberate, and his fondness for crosshatching gives everything a vaguely dingy look that suits his story of the end of a era, as things wind down and are taken away.
The story is visually grey amid the deep midnight blue of space. The only high-tech glossy silver comes in the letters on the cover. The buildings are odd blocks on stilts, sometimes with corners chopped off, seemingly randomly. This is what space would likely wind up looking like, bureaucratic and junky, because people are people, and they take their environments and priorities with them wherever they go.
This is the kind of science fiction I like, the kind based on exploring an idea of “what if” and how people would react. Only in this case, the idea is “what if we went to the moon and decided it wasn’t that big a deal?” As the old woman says, “Living on the moon. Whatever were we thinking? It seems rather silly now.” They had grand plans, but it all petered out. And other people, somewhere far away, make decisions that change the neighborhood without warning or ability to respond.
The more telling line, though, is his: “Since I was a boy, I’ve dreamed about becoming a cop and living on the moon. But now I’m here, it seems like the party’s over and everybody’s going home.” Mooncop beautifully captures the exhaustion of our culture, the feeling that it’s all been done before better. Yet there’s hope in carrying on, in finding beauty and connection where we can. Ultimately, I found it touching and inspiring.
You can see sample pages and find out more about the artist’s thoughts behind the book in this interview.