Tales From Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan

Talesfromoutersuburbia...BOOMYou thought you knew suburbia.

An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says…

These are the odd, magical details of everyday suburban life that might forever goo unnoticed were they not finally brought to light by Shaun Tan, author and illustrator of award-winning bestseller The Arrival

Outer Suburbia.  it’s closer than you think.

After reading the magnificent The Arrival, I hungered for more of Tan’s work, this was the only one available in the comic book shop Page 45, at the time and I couldn’t be happier about that now.

My initial disappointment at the mere 96 pages – for I liked quantity with quality in my youthful years – soon changed to outright curiosity as I flicked through to the pencil drawings on the inside cover, a skeleton playing the banjo and singing the blues, an astronaut interviewing a French dog and other sorts of other outlandish things which I later noted are not repeated on the back pages which features more refreshingly strange images.

Little touches like that reassured me that this wouldn’t be just another brief anthology but something special, a group of short stories tinged with whimsy and mystery and I wasn’t wrong.  Inside I discovered clever and lighthearted stories, that have at their core messages, some obvious a few hidden a little deeper but always as thought-provoking as you allow them to be.

Some of my favourite stories include a look at what happens to the lost poems we write on scraps of paper, an expedition to see what lies beyond the edge of a street map, an ‘invasion’ of enigmatic stick figures in the suburbs and a typical and logical reaction of the populace to the threat of war.

The mixture of terrific and diverse artwork side by side with strong but not too wordy prose is great to fuel the imaginations of children – older children to be precise-ish – and also to add a bit of colour and contented wonder to life jaded adult readers.  Whist there is plenty of a fancifulness nature in the storytelling and enough deeper messages to keep the analytical happy as well..

the art work is varied and complements the text perfectly, this assortment acts in tandem to strongly bring about the unique feel of each of the individual stories,  the book delights in constantly bringing you something with a different and unexpected tone yet consistently thoughtful, it makes it a delight to read.

The feeling of the quirky from everyday life. makes one sensitive to the idea that all that humdrum of daily tasks could be hiding anything much richer that we just don’t see, Tan encourages us to use our imaginations to see something more than there is.  He takes us on a rich kaleidoscopic journey into the gently surreal – oft haunting and is given a stronger impact by the way the humans react to events and situations they find themselves experiencing but that is something I urge you to discover for yourselves….



23 Replies to “Tales From Outer Suburbia – Shaun Tan”

    1. Excellent, I haven’t been taking too much notice of books coming out of late but I will have to keep a closer eye on this one.


  1. Didn’t he write the children’s book The Lost Thing? It’s also quirky, yet I really appreciate the metaphor of seeing beyond the everyday. There is a YouTube video of the book. It won an Academy Award for best short.


    1. he did indeed write The Lost Thing which is my favourite Tan book, I’ll check out the video out, after The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore I’m getting into these short films.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds quite interesting…if only I wasn’t bogged down in Dickens and Flatland 🙂 I have to admit though I did stop along the way to read Hugh Howey’s Wool, Shift, and Dust. Now I’m reading his Sand. What I’ll do is, add Tales from Outer Suburbia to my list that has grown so long I’ll never live long enough to read everything on it 🙂


    1. Tales from Outer Suburbia is one of those books you can read in a short time and is a welcome respite from the more challenging books. It is the curse of the book lover, to be aware that we will never read all those books we wish too,that tantalise us and are within reach.


    1. Tan does seem like a cult writer at the moment, I love introducing his works to others but like all things that are great but not as popular as they should be, I love feeling like I am part of an exclusive club appreciating his work. I reviewed a coupkle of his other books as well, just to add even more to your overly long list.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a lot of fun. I love the idea of looking beyond the ordinary. Anything could be lurking there. I also love anything with aliens.


    1. It does turn convention on its head and reminds us adults that it was fun to dream as kids and there really is no good reason why we should stop doing so.


  4. Hey, sounds like it beats such urban and suburban myths as alligators in the sewers that come up through the bathroom drains from where they were flushed down as baby pets! Though you know recently, in the news, there was the actually true story of a family who discovered a full-sized iguana in their toilet when they tried to flush! I hate to sound crude, but it beggars the imagination as to what exactly caused them to miss the iguana BEFORE they flushed! Anyway, it sounds like Shaun Tan beats that, or might even decide to play a riff on it some day….


    1. I do love urban myths, they really are wonderful flights if inventiveness to make the urban life feel more dramatic but Tan gives it a magical air and that makes it all the more smile inducing. I bet that family will always check before going to the toilet now, the very thought of it makes me feel a tad vulnerable…


  5. Sounds like something I would enjoy & can actually squeeze in during my short breathers.
    Will have to get this one for the girls – something for them to read over the summer.


  6. I have to say, I LOVE Shaun Tan’s artistic abilities. His art is aMAzing! I’m not a fan of some of the really weird content, but he is some talented guy 🙂


    1. It is usually weird for a reason at least, I do like the surreal myself, it’s a good fusion of the normal and the strange so you never know what will happen next.


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