Review by Frank Plowright
Rahim hangs around one of Berlin’s leading gangsters, a guy known as Wood, keen to make an impression and join the crew, but isn’t very successful at it. He’s aware of the dangers, the sample page showing his fear at possibly giving the wrong answer to a simple question, but is desperately naive when it comes to the bigger picture. Rahim has a particular problem with Era, a guy not much older than he is, but making all the right moves to ingratiate himself with Wood. He’s happier when not lurking in Wood’s orbit, hanging around with two real mates.
Polish writer Bartosz Sztybor has a very effective writing style, seemingly saying very little as Rahim and others go about their daily lives, but ensuring the undercurrents transmit the danger and other aspects. The way All Talk is broken down, for instance, shows how impressionable Rahim is, noticing how other lives don’t reflect his own scrubbing along, and there’s a constant air of impending tragedy hung over the story, as readers realise the likely consequences of Rahim’s chosen path while he remains ignorant.
Artist Akeussel’s stylised simplicity is also extremely effective and ideal for All Talk. It evokes the clear illustrations used for children’s books, reflecting Rahim’s immature attitudes, and those of his equally idealistic buddies. Because visual symbolism is part of the package, an example being Rahim’s small head, at first it takes some coming to terms with the style, because it’s not the realism commonly applied to gangster stories, but that distancing is deliberate. All Talk’s strength is the humanity and the observation, and treating it as a more commonplace crime story would diminish those aspects.
While this is an effective crime story, the running undercurrent is studying what draws youngsters into crime, and what appears a way of escaping, and this strength accompanies the deceptive simplicity. Will Rahim make it out alive? It’s not uncommon within gangster fiction that stupidity and ignorance pay off. All Talk has a prolonged ending viewing what happens in the same location, and like the remainder of the story it’s deliberately understated, and more powerful for that.