Review: Pond Life

Pond Life

Hiller Goodspeed, 160 pgs, Perfectly Acceptable Press,, $30

When life slows down, we have the opportunity to reflect on the absurdity of the world around us, of holidays or bugs, advertising or personal expectation. Life in the 21st century can be strange and silly, and Hiller Goodspeed delights in exploring these microcosms in his latest book, Pond Life. Continuing the themes of his previous books and self-published projects, Hiller’s deceptively simple illustrations capture complex emotions. This book is less “single-panel gag strips” as it is vignettes of ideas. 

Pond Life is filled with affirmations that often recognize the best in humanity. Filled with optimistic people and critters with pithy captions, Hiller thrives on the simplicity of whimsical bits of lighthearted wisdom. Text like “no death, only space,” below an image of a pitch-black night of stars, encapsulates more than is on-page and the reader can attribute to the message their own context. Hiller knows how to set a scene, but never digs deeper into any one idea, instead offering fleeting thoughts where I would happily enjoy a full narrative. Can these characters offer more than a mirror of our own worldview? 


Hiller’s art expands from his previous work, exploring collage alongside his illustrations with geometric 3D shapes, modified clipart, and photographs that emphasize his writing style. His linework is clean, confident, and economical. Hiller’s work is unpretentious, displaying a comforting pureness of heart. A beautiful book from Perfectly Acceptable Press, Pond Life as a physical object feels great to hold with its embossed, textured hardback — the autumnal color palette of oranges, yellows, greens, and light blues are exactly the right match for the childlike wonder on display. It’s a beautiful object. 

Lighthearted in a time more cynical than sweet, Hiller Goodspeed’s Pond Life is a delight, a reminder that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.