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Book Review: The End Of The World by Don Hertzfeldt
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The End Of The World by Don Hertzfeldt book cover banner

The End Of The World
Hardcover | Kindle
By Don Hertzfeldt
Publisher: Random House
Release date: October 1, 2019

With a title like The End Of The World you’d think I’d know what’s to come, yet somehow, I was still blindsided by this book. Perhaps it was the whimsical hand-drawn stars that lined the top of the stark yet classy hardcover that gave me a glimmer of hope. Or maybe the back cover’s humorous blurbs, boasting “Full of pages, from cover to cover…” and “This is practically a book” that lulled me into a false sense of security. Or possibly that the unexpected heft I felt as I removed the book’s shrink wrapping led me to believe that a product of this outward aesthetic must surely have a matching interior. But after opening the book, I realized I was in for something completely different.

In The End Of The World, creator Don Hertzfeldt envisions a crazy apocalyptic future depicted through stick-figure artwork on burnt-out looking pages, each accompanied by hand-drawn captions. There’s no linear story here, merely a look at how the survivors of this catastrophe are fairing in its aftermath. It begins harmlessly enough with a woman forgetting the word for “crater”; a fringe group generating good will; and a man searching for internet porn as his dead relatives watch from the great beyond.

There’s even one survivor who I could relate to: a woman who has the face of her dead husband stretched over the head of a robot so that she can “still sort of be with him.” That’s totally something I would do. My husband Dave already knows that if he dies first, I will definitely replace him with a Dave Robot as soon as the technology goes retail.

So yeah, not too bad, right? I mean, they still have internet and robots.

But then the supermarket starts running out of candles; there’s a nationwide going-out-of-business sale; and the last of the street lights flickers out. Not to mention the stabbing, the mass starvation, and a blast from the sky that burns out an observer’s eyes, along with some unmentionable horrors.

Umm… I’m scared. There’s 224 pages of this and it’s not going to get better. Be ready for what’s to come. Protect yourself – don’t go in blind like I did! And don’t skip the copyright page, as it will provide both humor and comfort.

I was unfamiliar with Hertzfeldt going into this, but it turns out he’s a writer, animator, and independent filmmaker who was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Rejected (2001) and World of Tomorrow (2015). And apparently trippy futuristic stick figure tales are his thing, and he does it well.

The illustrations in The End Of The World, which were crafted over time entirely on Post-In notes, come from Hertzfeldt’s ideas that didn’t make it onto the screen or were early material later developed for World of Tomorrow. The book did have an initial small print run six years ago, but this new edition from Random House, which includes additional panels, is its first wide release.

Fans of Hertzfeldt will know what to expect with this book and will no doubt enjoy the artist’s post-armageddon representation. To those not familiar with the artist, The End Of The World might be misinterpreted as a collection of silly, nonsensical drawings that seemingly go nowhere and tell no story. But the illustrations actually present relatable themes like aging, survival, love, and loss blended with the surreal and fantastical (corpses orbiting in the sky; floating sand; an “Easter eel”), infused throughout with a hint of humor to uplift you a little when the reality of this world feels like it’s too much to bare.

From the imagination of legendary animator and two-time Oscar nominee Don Hertzfeldt comes a hilarious fever-dream vision of the apocalypse, now available in wide release for the first time since the rare original edition sold out.

Created during sleepless nights while he worked on his animated films, The End of the World was illustrated entirely on Post-It notes over the course of several years, slowly taking shape from all the deleted scenes, bad dreams, and abandoned ideas that were too strange to make it to the big screen, including essential early material that was later developed into the animated classic World of Tomorrow.

Hertzfeldt’s visually striking work transcends its unusual nature and taps into the deeply human, universal themes of mortality, identity, memory, loss, and parenthood . . . with the occasional monstrous biting eel descending from the sky.

224 pages
8-1/2 x 8

The End Of The World by Don Hertzfeldt book cover

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