Review: My Great-Grandfather, the Alien
Updated: Sep 23
My Great-Grandfather, The Alien is a unique biography, an ambitious art book/collage project attempting to map out the mysterious life of author Katie Carmichael's ancestor Thomas Carmichael. As stated right at the start of the introduction, "My father grew up with little knowledge of his grandfather other than what he'd been told by his father, grandmother and aunt. And what he'd been told was grisly."
The culmination of two years of research, Carmichael weaves an intriguing timeline using historical documents, archival material, and a slew of photographs to try and pull together a sense of identity for the black sheep of this family. The different records and facts pulled from history tend to create more questions though, as the attempts to fill out the puzzle only reveal the indeterminable size and nature of the puzzle.
A few of the larger pieces to this puzzle are the mysterious circumstances revolving Thomas' death. Suffering fractures to the front and back of his skull, the exact nature of how he received these injuries is lost but the records lead to interesting coincidences such as his case being handled by an examiner who would later become a world-famous medical detective.
The printed book (it was also available as an Ebook through its Kickstarter) is beautifully realized, printed on high quality and heavy paper stock. My only minor complaint I guess would be that the book clocks in at 44 pages (including the intro, acknowledgements, and so on) with a cost of roughly $20 ($30 after shipping). As this falls more into the artbook category for me though and is a self-published venture with extremely high quality, it's still a reasonable price. It's also worth noting that proceeds from the book go towards funding a memorial for Thomas and to secure a headstone to mark his grave.
Depending on what level you supported the Kickstarter you also had access to a healthy helping of extra prints and material.
The base book package did come with a nice touch though, a vintage-style library pocket with inserts. I'm a bit of a sucker for those nice little add-ons.
My Great-Grandfather, the Alien is a unique familial passion project that's fantastically realized. If you are generally interested in bios, genealogy research, and engaging art design experiments then this is definitely worth picking up.
You can order a copy directly from Katie Carmichaels website:
And you can also follow her work at: