Daniel Quinn, ; illus. by Tim Eldred. . Context Books, $19.95 (204pp) ISBN 978-1-893956-17-9

Quinn's (After Dachau) new graphic novel incorporates his interests in alternative realities and the environment while using an odd and engaging narrative device. The entire social, technological and biological life of the planet, and indeed the universe, is traveling backwards. People are "born" in cemeteries, dug up and transferred to a hospital where they awake into life. In this strange universe, individuals enter life as adults driven by fate to reunite with (and reenter) their mothers, all the while growing younger as they return like salmon to the point of their beginnings. Quinn's book offers an elegant cosmological loop suggesting that at death we just start over again in another realm retracing our existential steps. Mankind methodically abandons technology; incredibly, coal and raw resources are put back into the ground; computers are discarded for typewriters and the great cities are dismantled. But Quinn's protagonist, Adam Taylor, is the odd man out, his mother nowhere to be found. Seemingly immortal, Taylor outlives his peers to witness entire human epochs pass before his eyes in reverse until he reaches the very beginning of civilization and an answer to the riddle of his mother's whereabouts. Quinn's quirky tale is compelling, but its implications are a bit too obvious (as technology recedes, the environment recovers, native peoples recover their lands from whites, etc.), and a little silly (if vegetables go back into the ground, just where, dare we ask, do foodstuffs come from in the first place?). Eldred's color artwork is competent but bland and conventional. (Oct.)