The Bullet Baby
Laura von Holt's Giants is a dystopian fantasy about a dysfunctional family. On a barren post-apocalyptic island, a sprite of a survivor, Button, and her big, big brother (the eponymous one) play house together in an off-kilter fairy-tale landscapethink Hansel and Gretel meets Road Warrior. Giant sided with the fascistic "Commander" in the recent civil war of the "Spots" (the master race of military elites) versus the "Bumps" (everyone else). Button wants reconciliation and a future for the mysterious bulge in her belly, which she attributes to a stray bullet. Giant won't be pinned down to help raise the child, and their departed mother is no help either, appearing as a blissful astronaut from the afterlife, relishing her post-mortal retirement from maternal duties.
Giants may ultimately feel slight, but Von Holt's writing is impressively disciplined and measured. Her total commitment to her idiosyncratic fantasy-genre vision and invented language is matched by Jen Wineman's understated direction, Jane Shaw's eerie music and soundscape, Ryan Elliot Kravetz's Grimm-esque set, and two delightfully earnest lead performances by Michael Markham and Autumn Hurlbert. Apart from the facile metaphor of childbirth as hope, the poetic voice is original and refreshingly pop-culture-free. Whimsical without winking, Giants may be the most charming end-of-the-world story around.
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