Off the coast of France lives Cancer Simplicimus Vulgaris, or the Square Crab. (Not a real species, by the way. I had to check to make sure.) They can only move in a straight line their whole lives. They spend their life constrained by the circumstances of their birth—were they born between two rocks only a foot apart or are they facing parallel to the ocean and so can look at it, but never set foot in it?
The story is mostly told from the crabs point of view. Because Square Crabs have such delimited lives, they don’t have names (no need, if you might never meet another crab). There are no mating rituals because it’s so unlikely two crabs will ever cross paths. There is no avoiding dangers in one’s path, because there is no deviation from the path.
Our main crab protagonist has his life changed when another Square Crab, pointing a different direction, rises up out of the sand beneath him and carries him along to a different part of the beach. They decide to name each other—primary crab becomes Sunny and his inadvertent ride becomes Boater. Sunny realizes that if they work in tandem, taking turns carrying each other, they can go in any direction they want. Suddenly, life has opportunities!
There are small interludes on land where we see Raymond and Dominique, a pair of documentary filmmakers interested in capturing the Square Crab. Despite losing their funding, they have traveled to the coast to make their film in an attempt to uncover the mystery of why Square Crabs only travel in straight lines. Is it possible that Square Crabs move in straight lines because none have ever tried to move differently?
The art is lovely. Mostly watercolor, the drawings feel fresh and beach-y. De Pins does an especially good job with the shadows, making them strong enough to give the feel of a beach in full sun, without making the shadowed areas so dark you can’t see the image within it. The crabs’ personalities are front and center in this work—DePins making as expressive a crab face as I have ever seen. March of the Crabs is a fun addition to any collection.
March of the Crabs
by Arthur De Pins
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