BOOK REVIEW: Ashes, Ashes by Jean-David Morvan

Ashes, Ashes #1Ashes, Ashes #1 by JD Morvan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Out: October 5, 2021

[Note: The book I’m reviewing is the 144-page multi-issue story.]

This is the story of a technological apocalypse and a post-apocalyptic Alexander the Great who was born of it. The bulk of the story reveals the cataclysm and life in the early days of its wake. But there is an interspersed subplot that takes place in a present-day that is well after the apocalypse. The big difference between this “world-conqueror” (actually, it seems to be only a small area of what had been southern France) and other power-consolidating titans is his luddism. He vehemently hates [almost] all technologies and insists that all (but one) post-Amish technology be eschewed because he feels human innovation to be cause of humanity’s fall. Otherwise, he checks the boxes: narcissistic, nihilistic, and probably a psychopath.

The story is compelling, and it definitely draws one in. I thought the pacing was well-executed and the concept was intriguing. Both the art and story have a unique feel, though I don’t know that the book will be able to distinguish itself within an extremely bloated dystopian / post-apocalyptic sub-genre.

There were a few elements that felt clunky. First of all, the mid-twenty-first century technological landscape is strange. I didn’t think anyone still imagined flying cars on the near-future time horizon. I think they only existed here to make the moment of doom impressively fiery. Second, a romance is established with great effort that is allowed to flameout to a lukewarm puddle of nothing. Perhaps, this was the point — to show the romance as victim of the demands of life under an anarchic dystopia. (If so, it gets lost amid the more exhilarating happenings.) Third, there is one modern technology that the protagonist is quick to adopt. This might be an intentional way of showing his love of self far exceeds his hatred of technology, but it’s curious.

If you don’t have dystopia fatigue, you may want to give this book a look.


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BOOK REVIEW: We Live by Inaki & Roy Miranda

We LiveWe Live by Inaki Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Out: May 19, 2021

In a dystopian future on the verge of the Earth’s doomsday, aliens send humanity an opportunity to preserve itself on a limited scale. Bracelets (gauntlets, really) are dispersed around the planet, and any child [no adults allowed] wearing one who can get to the closest beacon site can be rescued.

Hototo is an orphan boy (preschool to kindergarten-aged) who has one of the bracelets, and his sister, Tala (early elementary school-aged,) is to be his escort to the beacon. [Hototo thinks they will both remain together, but Tala knows that she will drop him off and will stick around on the planet to witness the end of the world.] The story told in this volume is essentially their perilous journey from home to the beacon site.

What I liked most about his story is that it creates the visceral scenario of these two vulnerable kids traveling together through a landscape laden with all manner of threats, and – as in any story worth its salt – one thing after the other goes wrong for them. I also found the art appealing. It creates an intriguing story world. (Though the fantastical story world did rely heavily a popular, if overused, idea in sci-fi of late that some combination of toxins, radiation, and high-speed evolution spurred by rapid environmental change will create super-powered, super-intelligent predatory species. And in this case, they are in explicably conspicuous species – making them more visually interesting, but less sensible.)

The biggest problem with the story is that our two protagonists, while generating a lot of angst in the reader about their well-being, have no agency. Tala and Hototo show braveness, particularly Tala, but they must be rescued every single time. That’s realistic, because Kindergartners who could deal with the threats that they do would either have to be superpowered or put into question how serious the threats really are. [Either of which would damage the tension of the story.] There is a secondary character, Humbo, who is (or seems) slightly older than Tala, who is much more interesting than the sister/brother protagonists. In fact, Humbo is one of the primary rescuers of the two children throughout the story. The only other problem I had with the story is that the pacing at the end is so rapid that it makes it hard to track whether the story is making sense – i.e. being internally consistent.

As for recommendations, I think some will love this story and others will loath it, because it is an experimental piece. Hopefully, I’ve provided sufficient information for the reader to make their own decision. I did enjoy reading it, and found the interesting story world and events of the story to counterbalance the fact that the protagonists were leaves on the wind. (Though I probably would have preferred a story that centered on Humbo.)

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