Chew is the sort of book that I would never read if it were not in graphic novel format. I think the descriptions would probably disturb me, and I could very easily be grossed out. Also, while I really love historical mysteries, modern-day police procedurals do not interest me. But somehow, I saw this graphic novel at Borders one day and haven't quite been able to squelch my curiosity about it. So, I read it!
Tony Chu is a cibopath- someone who gets psychic impressions from things that he eats. For example, when he eats an orange, he knows where it grew, who picked it, who shipped it, and what happened to it before he ate it. With meat, he gets stronger impressions. As a detective who sometimes investigates murders...well, he can get a lot of information if he doesn't mind resorting to cannibalism.
Chu lives in an alternate version of our world, where a bird flu pandemic killed hundreds of millions of people, resulting in a poultry ban. If people want to eat chicken, they have to buy it on the black market, and the black market is thriving. Thus, the Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) of America has become one of the biggest and most important (and reviled) government organizations in the country, and when Tony is recruited to work for them, he doesn't hesitate to accept the offer. But what about the rumors going around that it was not the bird flu that caused the world-wide pandemic?
As this book is the first in a series, there is a lot of information we don't have, and of course the book ends without satisfying us on all those points. But there are just so many interesting ideas brought up here! It's not so hard to think of the country banning a certain type of food after a health scare, and that food then becoming a basis for an underground economy. It's disturbing (but fascinating) to think of someone's ability to learn things through the food he eats. Another character has the ability to make everyone around her experience food in exactly the way she experienced it, just by talking about her meal. This is wonderful for the very classy, expensive meals she has. Not so good are the dirty, disgusting meal descriptions that can go so far as to induce serious illness.
So while I don't know that this particular issue of this series was absolutely compelling, I do hope to continue with the story. Tony Chu is an interesting character (though not as interesting as his mentor Savoy) with complicated familial and professional relationships. He has a wisecrack sense of humor that I enjoyed, and I really want to know more about the post-poultry world that he lives in! However... I don't recommend reading this book after a big meal!