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Book Review < Back

Planetes vol. 1

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Makoto Yukimura
Publisher: TokyoPop

Commentary

Here's a subgenre you don't see very often: Astronaut Social Fiction.

Yes, we're in the future, and there's a full-blown space industry with settlements on the moon. Hachimaki is a young dreamer longing to be part of the race into deep space. Yuri is a veteran hoping space will give him the answers to his quest for peace after his tragic past. Fee is their boss, a feisty woman with a serious addiction to cigarettes. Their job is to clear the millions of pieces of debris and space junk in Earth's orbit so that the path into space can be clear from unpleasant collisions.

This first book consists of a series of self-contained stories dealing with what it would feel like to live and work in space, the working-stiff end of the Grand Dream of Going Out There. The health hazards, the long hours of isolation and tedium, the hair's breadth distance from life-threatening danger from just the slightest miscalculation, the physics of moving and living in low gravity, the hassle of finding a decent place to smoke your cigarettes, the human price you pay for chasing the Dream. Rather than a gung-ho rush for the stars, there's a cautious, tempered idealism at play here: yes, Mankind should reach for the stars, but there will always be tragedies, there will always be casualties, there will always be losses, and there will always be interference from the more venal political agendas. The heroes are, after all, garbage men. Only Hachimaki still clings to his ambition of becoming a pioneering hero in the still-burgeoning space race. Yuri's idealism is shaded by melancholy and the loss of his wife. For Fee, it's a job she does really well, when she doesn't have to put up with the hassles of Hachimaki's whining, increasingly outdated equipment, and her nicotine cravings.

The mundanity of the characters' routines actually amplify their courage and determination, and this being a manga, the poetry and wonder of the adventure they signed up for are still there. The more they venture into space, the more human they are.

-- Adi Tantimedh

 
Adi Tantimedh is a screenwriter and filmmaker who writes comics when he has the time. He has recently completed JLA: The Age of Wonder for DC Comics, and written and directed Open House, a short film for Studio FP in Italy. His current projects include the forthcoming Blackshirt for Moonstone Books, Anna Passenger, a novel being serialised on Opi8.com, and various film and television projects.

 


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