BOOK REVIEW: After the Fall by Laurent Queyssi

After the FallAfter the Fall by Laurent Queyssi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Out: October 12, 2021

This isn’t exactly a thinking person’s read. It’s a fine, if simple, return home quest story with plenty of action. But it feels like the production process began with an artist’s Wishlist – e.g. “I would like to draw a comic that combines my love of dinosaurs, aliens, roided-up dudes, scantily-clad women, fantasy genre weaponry, bare boobies, zombies, and set it all within a crumbling 21st century Earth city.” To which the writer said, “We can do that! I’ve been working on this story about a friend who got his headphones stolen.” And the artist said, “That sounds perfect!”

It’s not until the end of the book that we learn what could create such a disparate set of conditions. We know that nuclear radiation could only account for the super-huge and preternaturally-aggressive animals, as well as the superpowers. How are we to account for the fact that all the men look like Conan the Barbarian, all the women look like their previous gig was sitting atop a muscle car for a muffler shop calendar, and some of the dudes look like video game monsters / aliens? I won’t spoil the mystery radiation that could result in such a range of afflictions, as well as bringing back the dinosaurs, except to say that I didn’t find the explanation compelling.

Unless you’ve been looking for a book that combines pterodactyls, aliens, superpowered anti-heroes, boobies, roided-up dudes, and stylized battle axes, you can probably pass on this one. But, if you’re into such things,…

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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: The Fall, Vol. 1 by Jared Muralt

The Fall, Volume 1The Fall, Volume 1 by Jared Muralt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Out: March 17, 2021

 

I’m really curious about how this book will do. On the one hand, the writer / artist does an incredible job of creating a visceral and gripping reading experience. On the other hand, I suspect the reaction will be a resounding: “too soon.” The story is essentially the worst-case scenario of our current, pandemic-dominated, world. What would happen if the fatalities became so disruptive that governance and economic production faltered and then collapsed? In the marketing materials, the publisher makes a comparison to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and “The Fall” does share with that literary masterpiece the idea that there’s virtually nobody left that one wants to run into – i.e. everybody left is looking out for number one, and is, thus, untrustworthy. While that’s not strictly true, it’s true enough that one has to treat everyone with suspicion and with a finger on the trigger (literally or figuratively, as one’s state of armament allows.) Looking at the matter from the other direction, everyone left has done (or will end up doing) something of which they aren’t proud.

The story is built around a blue-collar family. The father and two children (a teenaged daughter and pre-teen boy) had one of the early variants of the flu, giving them adaptive immunity with a less lethal strain. The mother, a health-care worker, succumbs to the highly lethal evolved variant, leaving the three to survive in a rapidly escalating apocalyptic scenario.

At first, the family tries to survive in the city, but the father discovers that there is no food left and there are dangerous elements about. The trio then heads to stay with relatives in the countryside, not without running into challenges. They end up in a town that is allowing “tourists” to stay (with all the fatalities, housing is the only necessity that’s not lacking,) but there is not enough food or medicine for everyone. The characters are repeatedly pressed up against the kinds of challenging scenarios one might expect in a post-apocalyptic winter wonderland. Most pressingly, the father suffers an infection that seems like it may have him on his deathbed.

This is an intense read. As I say, I’m not sure everybody’s ready for it. If you have anxiety about where we are presently, I wouldn’t recommend it as it might take you to dire places that you wouldn’t have imagined yourself. That said, for readers of horror, dark stories, dystopian and post-apocalyptic wasteland stories, it’s a strong entry.

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