This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.
Having enjoyed a biography on Octavia Butler about three years ago, I've been intending to look up some of her work ever since, but for one reason or another never got around to it, so when this one came up for consideration on Net Galley, I jumped at the chance. It's a graphic novel, so I figured it would be a relatively quick read, and the fact that this version is 276 pages long didn't daunt me, even though the print book itself is only about 75 pages longer! Unfortunately, it didn't work for me.
The first and most obvious problem was the unfinished nature graphics. An understandably huge part of a graphic novel is the graphics, but these looked like the artist had rough-sketched the images and then forgot to complete them, and no colorist ever came along to notice, The result is that every page is rough-sketched - as in, for example, there are no faces on many of the characters, or the face has the cross marking showing where the face center line and the eyes will be, or the entire panel has several overlaid outlines for characters and scenery, like it was rough-sketched out and then never cleaned up!
Initially, I had no idea if this was intentional, or if the comic is still a work in progress. Usually, if that's the case, there's something to indicate that, and at least a few of the panels are done to completion. After a search I did find a small note on one page indicating that it was a work in progress and that it's a combination of sketches, inks, and final art, but all of the art was in exactly the same state with no finished color panels anywhere to be seen. This isn't intended to be published until next January, so why not simply wait until more of it is done and send it out for review later - when we can see what the finished product will be like?! I've never seen a comic book sent out for review in this state. Never.
If that was the only problem, that would be one thing, but for me the story itself wasn't entertaining and wasn't very smart in places either. Set in the mid 2020's, the story focuses on a community in which resides Lauren Oya Olamina (Loo? Being originally from Britain, I couldn't take her seriously with those initials, but I let that slide). Lauren starts her own religion which sounds more like a real cult in that it advocates that humans - with no resources and no plan - leave Earth and settle on some other planet. Why that would make more sense than simply using the exorbitant cost of such a space flight to fix Earth seems to have been ignored, but since I haven't read that far (and Butler never did write that third part of what was intended to be a trilogy), it's hard to say. At this point I have no plans to read any further than the fifty percent of this that I made it through!
I couldn't tell from the rough drawings (which went all the way through the book - I skimmed to check) if this was an entirely African American or a mixed community. I assume it was mixed because there seems to have been an issue later with outside people they encounter not deeming mixed-race couples to be kosher, although again how that back-sliding occurred, I can't say. Nor can I tell who the people were who were breaking in - they were just outsiders, described vaguely as homeless, which begs the question as to why this community had so little charity. I know they didn't have much for themselves, but they did all right, yet never once did they seem to feel the need to try and help any of the outsiders who were clearly desperate enough to break in.
The biggest problem for me was how idiotic these people seemed to be inside the community. Despite continually harping on the danger posed by outsiders, it's only after people start breaking in and stealing that this ever-present threat of people breaking-in and stealing becomes an action item on their agenda! They start minimal patrols of two people, and even then these patrols don't use the guns they're issued. What's the point of the guns and all the target practice exactly, if you're never going to fire them, not even in warning?!
So yes, this community struck me as being exceedingly dumb. Apparently they have several keys to the gate, but they seem as lax in keeping an eye on the keys as Star Trek crews typically are in keeping an eye on the shuttle bay, leading to shuttles being routinely purloined. So no one keeps an eye on those keys either, and it really doesn't matter anyway because people can clearly get in without them. What happens eventually (so I understand, although I didn't read that far) is that the community predictably fails, and a hoard of refugees start a trek to the north, where conditions are apparently better. Why it took so long, I do not know!
This novel was written in the nineties and while Butler got climate change correct, she somehow seemed to think that everything: not just the environment, but the government, the military, the police, and whatever, would fail catastrophically within a quarter century. The military and government are never mentioned - not in the fifty percent of this that I could stand to read. The police are mentioned as a private organization which it's not worth the time and cost to call on anyway. For me the author failed to show how all of this could remotely come about in so short a time. We're just left with the unsupported claim that it did, and this is how things are now in this story. I need a little bit more depth for my fiction than this offered.
Consequently I cannot commend this as a worthy read, and especially not with such scrappy graphics and without even a page or two of samples of the finished product. This really ought to have been held back a month or two longer so that some pages at least could have been finished.