An Unlikely Refugee: The Story of a Python Named George is a captivating and moving graphic novel that follows the life of a Burmese python named George. Initially born in the jungle, the devastating effects of warfare lead George to be taken in and rescued by the U.S. Army Special Forces where he becomes the unofficial pet of the unit. However, the increasingly violent climate soon becomes too dangerous and George is sent to America where he becomes one the main attractions at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences.
What’s interesting is that although the story explores deeper themes of war, destruction, isolation and morality, the entirety of the graphic novel remains grounded in the world of a snake. What I mean is the narration is solely from George’s innocent perspective, often focusing on primal desires such as hunger and warmth, and as a result we come to know him and empathise with his plight. We are forced to view the warfare that we have become accustomed and desensitised to in modern day society from the viewpoint of the natural world. The world that George knows slowly disappears and from his helpless perspective its clear humans are to blame; yet it is the same humans who then ‘save’ him from the environment by sending him to captivity.
The complicated relationship between human beings and the natural world is explored in a profound detail while, at the same time, an entertaining and engaging narrative is told. The fact that both elements are maintained throughout the story without a loss in momentum is truly a testament to the narrative prowess of creators Max and Morrow Dowdle.
However, one element of the novel that cannot be overlooked is the illustration. There are a number of panels in the novel that are drawn with such detail that they would easily be able to stand alone as works of art. The colour palettes used visually delight and serve to emphasise the resplendence of the novel’s aesthetic. Max Dowdle truly gives life to George and in one of the more intense moments in the novel, graphically depicts a fight between George and a Bengal tiger. While this is an event which goes on to hold great significance for George, it’s sure to delight any reader as who doesn’t want to see a fight between a python and a tiger?
Although the moments where the novel really shines are the moments where the illustration works alongside some of the more transcendental themes and George wrestles with spiritual and abstract concepts such as death and existence. The illustration is largely grounded with realism but for brief intervals we escape this and are presented with a spiritual realm which is used to place emphasis on certain moments where George is forced to contemplate and grapple with concepts that are elusive even to us as human beings. It forces an invocation of deep thought in the reader and this is what made the novel really stand out for me.
In conclusion, An Unlikely Refugee works on the surface level as an entertaining story about the survival of a snake but also as a deeper musing on spirituality and existence. If you like your stories to be engaging and entertaining but at the same time thought provoking, I would highly recommend you read The Story of a Python Named George.
If you would like to find out how you can get hold of a copy of An Unlikely Refugee: The Story of a Python Named George, check out the Kickstarter page of creator Max Dowdle here.