Tuesday, May 30, 2006

#36 and #37

My favorite speculative fiction maintains an absolute normalcy, and focuses on everyday stuff, occasionally dropping hints that something's not quite right. Ishiguro lets us in on his grotesque secret by bits and pieces (sorry--bad pun) without resorting to the outlandish. Never Let Me Go is the sort of book I'd hoped Oryx and Crake would be. Where Atwood failed, Ishiguro succeeds by re-writing A Separate Peace and setting it in a grim future where the students *SPOILER ALERT* are clones doomed to have their organs harvested.

Another feature of the best speculative fiction is that it's never only about the future. Ishiguro's novel is certainly a dystopian vision projecting current troubling ethical issues into the next century, but it is also a subtle critique of all of us right now. The clones in his book are a bit daft, a bit vacuous, and terribly sheltered. They learn mannerisms from American TV, they concern themselves with stupid gossip and games, they base their personal worth on empty useless productions and silly adornments. Hmmmmm.

I knew Neal when he was a hipster barrista in the most-neglected Borders Cafe in the universe. Now he's cranking out graphic novels. I'm in no way an expert on the genre, but I know a bit about sci-fi and the Bermuda Triangle and time displacement. Neal's used these old tropes to set the stage for an appealing character-driven noir. This introductory volume leaves nothing resolved, but we have a taste of the odd place in which our hero finds himself. Think of the old TZ episode where the astronaut is the only guy in the world while undergoing an isolation stress test, or think of Steve King and Pete Straub's The Talisman; we've got a universe just a bit off from our own, a familiar canvas a bit warped. Neal's challenge will be to mine familiar territory in a new way. I for one look forward to his continued quarrying.

Joe Infurnari drew and inked the book, and his stuff is appealingly raw. I particularly liked the event in the Triangle--ambiguous and jarring.

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