I came across A Wild Ride Through The Night as I was looking for the other Zamonia books by Walter Moers after being done with Captain Bluebear. This caught my attention as it is much thinner compared to all his other books, and feeling intrigued, I picked it up. I was surprised to see in the book illustrations that resemble woodcuts which is not typical of the style of drawing that Moers used for the Zamonia books. Immediately, I flipped through the pages to find out who the illustrator is. To my amazement, he is a nineteenth century French artist named Gustave Doré. So, instead of drawing pictures to accompany his text as usual, Walter Moers used 21 illustrations by the late Doré to inspire this story. Did I mention that these illustrations were originally used to accompany different stories by different authors and Moers managed to make them all work for one? WOW. And naturally, the protagonist of this story is a boy named Gustave Doré who aspires to be an artist. I borrowed the book immediately and read it through the night.
The book is brilliant. In one night, I journeyed with Gustave through a Siamese twin tornado, had a wager with Death and his sister Dementia, saved a damsel who was not in distress, talked to a dream princess, solved anagrams, met the Most Monstrous of All Monsters, went to the moon and drew a portrait of Death. This book seems like it is supposed to be in the children’s section based on our cataloguing conventions with the 12 year-old protagonist and talking monsters. Yet this is found (rightly) in the adult fiction section for it contains hints and glimpses of philosophy that Moers scatters throughout the story (without coming across as a lecturer), and provoking reflections that refuse to disappear with the night. Even as the sun rises, I find myself stuck with the recurring question, “Are we not all servants of death?”
Reviewed by Koh Wei Lian, Bishan Public Library, Public Library Services