Okko: Cycles of Water and Earth

To start, these are volumes 1 and 2 of a planned 5 volume series. They were originally published in French (in France!) and Archaia is republishing them in English. The end of volume 5 hasn’t been released in French yet, so it will be a bit before the series concludes in English. Each volume is self-contained, so don’t worry about cliff hangers, but there is character continuity.

The books take place in the mystical kingdom of Japan. I mean Pajan. Sorry, I switched a couple of letters there. So we have the mystical kingdom of Pajan which is eerily similar to Japan but with magic. And power armor.

The artwork is good with a slight woodblock print feel. The character personalities are clear and consistent. Maybe just a bit too consistent – they all act according to their type no matter the situation. The stories are told from the perspective of the “new kid”. He is picked up at the beginning of the first book and he then narrates. This could be used to explain away some of the way the older characters are presented if we were to analyze the psychology of the characters. The rest of the group are experienced soldiers/adventurers.

Overall I like these books. Part of it may be because the attempted perspective of an Asian culture makes it a little different from the “standard” in the US. Part of it may because I have a fondness for Asian cultures myself. The world of these stories has obvious similarities to Japan (besides the name..) but it is “fantasized” enough that I can ignore the inaccuracies. I am curious to see how someone from Japan would react, however.

I was amused when I realized that all the names could actually be written with Japanese kana. I’m curious how much they were changed in the translation from French, if at all.

I’ll pick up the other books in the series eventually (sale or not) but I’m not running out to grab them immediately.


Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier

I’m going to quote the book cover here. “Decadence and overindulgence has led to the extermination of most animal and plant species, as well as Earth’s ability to support human life. The only solution is to find a new home for mankind, one that the government is too self-absorbed to contemplate. Critical Millennium is an epic sci-fi romp, rife with brutally realistic and sober portrayals of humanity – not in blacks and whites, but in all its various shades of gray.”

This is one of the bleakest books I have ever read.

The story of this first book is about a dying Earth and some “revolutionaries” who believe that the only hope for humanity lies in FTL travel and making it to another planet. The book ends with their ship finally taking off. It should be a story of hope.

The beginning of the book, however, seems to show that same ship and everyone on board it coming apart in hyperspace. So you know from the beginning that the hope the story is trying to build up is false – you have already seen them fail.

The artwork is well done but not a style I like. Some of the scenes have very fine details but I the general ‘watery’ look is difficult for me. I end up not seeing or looking for the details.

In terms of humanity being shown in shades of gray .. well, I agree with that. There were no heroes in this book. This plays into the story being one of false hope set in a dying world. The very concept of a hero is corrupt and decayed.

The story is primarily about the general debauchery of the world and the social/political intrigue surrounding the “heroes” trying to build and launch their new ship. I know this type of story appeals to a lot of readers but, again, it is not for me. I don’t need SF/F for intrigue, debauchery, and politics. I can just open the newspaper.

I can understand why other people like this book. The graphics, as I said, are well done and there are many scenes with fine details. The characters are distinct and have plenty of “character”. The plot has several twists and turns. It just isn’t for me.

There is one aspect that gives me pause beyond my personal preferences. In this future dystopia the unquestioned world ruler is an Indian woman and Caucasians (Ghosts) are an oppressed underclass. I would applaud the creators for creating a world with such a different social structure that what we have now. But other aspects of the story make these differences seem like they are supposed to be indicative of the corruption in the world – they are negatives. The prime minister is first presented slaughtering one of the few remaining dolphin pods as part of a supposed Japanese ritual. The “heroes” are Caucasian males who inherited their fortunes and spend all their time partying. It all comes across as a white male power fantasy.

Overall this is the antithesis of Miranda Mercury for me. I would be curious to talk to someone who likes both books, as to me they could not be more different.

(The final part to be posted on Monday)