Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson

Anyone who's read this in the last while will have come to the foregone conclusion that for better or worse, I am something of a Superman fan. I can probably tell you of all the nooks and crannies and various character tidbits surrounding the world-famous cultural icon.

However, the details surrounding his birth have always been a bit sketchy. At the very worst, Krypton's fate was relegated to a single-panel, on the very first page of Action Comics #1. Over the decades, writers and artists expanded on this, with varying histories involving an expanding sun, fatal earthquakes and even inter-planetary war involving terrorist groups and clones (!). With the exception of perhaps the original Superman movie (with the late, great Marlon Brando as Jor-El), no incarnation has managed to create a Krypton that we could truly care for and whose loss we could really lament. Krypton has often just been a story tool to explain why Superman has super-powers. Until now.

Enter Kevin J. Anderson, an author of some so-so Star Wars novels (of which there are so mind-numbingly many) and a dozen or so original Sci-Fi novels. He releases a novel called 'The Last Days of Krypton' and naturally, no one gets particularly excited.

How wrong we were.

In the sizeable space of 412 pages, Anderson weaves a tale of political intrigue, of xenophobia of technical, ethical and moral questions. His Krypton is a world filled with beauty and technology, but plagued by indecisiveness, cluelessness and vanity. Its rulers cannot understand the concept of telling the truth, because it's the right thing to do rather than simply being a tool to elevate one's status.

Jor-El, Lara and the unforgettable General Zod are phenomenally developed throughout the story. Jor-El grows from a bumbling scientist to a passionate hero; Lara grows from a talkative artsy-type to a loving companion and Zod grows from a jealous bureaucrat into a truly despicable despot, with all of the fake smiles and empty promises that one would expect from a real-life dictator.

Throughout the novel we are given red herrings and unforeseen circumstances that leave the reader guessing as to how and indeed if Krypton will even perish at all (spoiler warning: it does) and the eventual ending is one that is original and ingenious and one that should by rights, be incorporated into the mainstream series of comic books.

If you are even a casual fan of Superman or science fiction, you'll love this book.



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