Authors who insert a social message into their books might do so subtly, said message coming across as an “aha” moment once the reader finishes the book. Authors might also insert the message into the book with little to no subtlety whatsoever; the social message of the book is evident in the plot summary. While that has the danger of being didactic, sometimes the results can be fun. Eat the Rich, written by Sarah Gailey and illustrated by Pius Bak, is one such book.
The story begins with Joey meeting her boyfriend Astor’s family for the first time. Astor is from the exclusive and affluent neighborhood of Crestfall Bluffs, and Joey is very anxious about saying the wrong thing, not knowing how to sit, and just not belonging. There are traditions in Crestfall Bluffs, and there is a clear social divide that Joey does not want to get on the wrong side of. Joey must learn to survive among the cutthroat one percent and that includes accepting their unusual and rarefied tastes.
Hugo-Award winning author Gailey weaves a very straightforward story, one that rockets toward the gore and bloodshed promised by the book’s cover; there is no dancing around the fact that people in this story die and die horribly. This jump to brutality, however, doesn’t make the book feel rushed, not when the story’s also a character study of Joey’s motivations and her desire to fit in with Astor’s family. There are times where Joey appears to be the victim and others where she is the victimizer. Indeed, there are plenty of red splotches in Eat the Rich’s universe, but there are also many different shades of gray.
Bak’s artstyle does paint a grim yet vivid picture of Crestfall Bluff’s rapacious-yet-well-fed underbelly. Bak shows a knack for capturing the faces of these characters as their smiling veneers fall into the expressions of tortured souls and even hungry devils. And Bak also displays a knack for displaying their physical insides, which are spread open, bleeding, and repurposed into delicacies that are to (let someone else) die for.
Eat the Rich relishes its depictions of violence with ghoulish glee, and that could draw the gorehounds who can watch most horror movie violence without batting an eye. But the book is more than just heavy-handed, though macabre, symbolism drenched in a visceral gravy. The characters go beyond just rich and hungry. Everyone in this universe benefits from this disturbing arrangement, which means the horrors committed can be rationalized away, at least for a little while. If this book did have a message, it’s that the descent into darkness isn’t always an express elevator; sometimes it’s a slow walk down a gilded staircase. The downward spiral can start with just a few compromises.
Eat the Rich
By Sarah Gailey
Art by Pius Bak
BOOM! Studios, 2022
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation: Nonbinary