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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The City of Shifting Waters. P. Christin (Writer), J.C. Mezierers (Art) Jerome Saincantin (Translator). Cinebook Ltd. (2010)

Engaging and enjoyable action science fiction about time traveling agents of the Terran Empire in the 28th century. Valerian and Laureline work for the Spatio-Temporal Agents Service which prevent unauthourised time travelers from interfering in history. Valerian is sent back to New York in 1986 to capture Xombul, a dangerous megalomaniac. New York is in ruins, the ice caps have melted as a result of a nuclear explosion and the city is steadily drowning. Valerian encounters a gang of looters in his search for Xombul and is rescued by Laureline. The story has great pace, the reveals are nicely staged and the finale clever.
One of the very nice aspects to the story is that neither Vaerian or Laureline are standard issue action heroes, they use their brains to adapt to the circumstances as they encounter them. They have no prior knowledge of the era as there were very few surviving details, this gives them a chance to be surprised by the conditions and makes their responses sharper and fresher. The rest of the cast are as well thought out, Sun Rae the leader of the looters in New York  has a keen eye for the possibilities that Valerian & Laureline bring with them. The details of the the drowning city are clever and thoughtful, the plot has nice twists that keep the inevitable at bay for as long as possible. The story avoids a lot of the headaches that come with time travel stories by simply ignoring them in favour of pushing ahead with the adventure.
J.C. Mezieres' art is nicely cartoony, the cast are well define and fit well into the context. The details of the drowning city, deserted by those who could get away and being reclaimed by water and plants is done with care. In particular a storm that brings the final destruction of the city is done very well.
The comic was written in the 1970's and feels a bit text heavy, this does not distract or detract from the story once you get used to it. The straightforward nature of the narrative serve it well, the adventure has no sub-text about the past, it is simply an opportunity to create an interesting context for a genre staple. Doing the straightforward well is very hard, there is no where for the writer or artist to hide if the make a mistake or lose momentum. The care and craft that went into this book is hidden behind the success of the story, lighthearted adventurous science fiction delivered with precision.
Other Voices, Other Views:
http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/2010/city-of-shifting-waters-a-classic-i-just-cant-see-it/
http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/18535.html
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7810429-the-city-of-shifting-waters

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, of the first book of this amazing series, thank you!

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