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Friday, April 7, 2017

Anna Galactic. Christopher Baldwin (Writer & Artist). Good Port Publishing (2016)

A wonderfully engaging and enjoyable romantic science fiction story. On board a stranded ship on an alien planet Foxglove Muriel defies the rules to search outside the ship, actions which bring her into direct conflict with security officer Dilvan Ceylon. Foxglove is sure there is something suspicious about their circumstances, Dilvan is trying to enforce the rules. When they cross paths with Anna Galactic, a young woman who parents are arrested , all three flee the ship along with Anna's nannybot, Pewter. They start on a journey to locate the energy source required to power the flight of their ship off the planet and find that the planet is full of surprises and dangers. The action is smart, forceful and frequently very funny, the reveals are cunningly set up and the conclusion is smart and satisfyingly unexpected.
Christopher Baldwin has embraced the challenge of presenting an unknown world with great energy and thoughtful detail. The variety of N.E.B. (Non Earth Beings) is nicely set up so that there are a limited number of different NEB's and the interactions with each are significant. They way the human cast respond to them and the N.E.B.s respond to the humans is always revealing and develops the themes of the story with deft wit. There is always a nice edge of incomprehension that makes the responses and actions ambiguous, every interaction has multiple possibilities, there is a consistent variety in the outcomes to keep the reader engaged.
The journey is not just about the outcome, it is as much a process whereby the human cast get to demonstrate themselves and question what and why they act the way they do. Dilvan and Foxglove are mature adults with established life patterns that they fall back on in trouble. They are also self aware enough to consider different ways of responding even if they are not always able to follow a new path. Anna Galactic is a young woman who is emerging into a entirely new life where she has to be more confident in herself and decide if what she is doing is what she wants to do. This process is very happily complicated by the presence of Pewter whose advice is consistently sharp, awkward and voices the happily unheroic at every turn. This nicely undercuts the more tortured thinking of the human cast and ensures that it never becomes pretentious.
The art is wonderfully friendly and welcoming, the cast are very expressive and move through their context with physical weight and impact. The N.E.B.s are varied without every being too fantastic, they fit into their context as comfortably as the human cast do. Christopher Baldwin sets the imaginative bar very high, knitting crabs should be a ridiculous point that blows up the story, instead they are a terrific and in context entirely credible event.  The art is never angular, its softer lines are complemented perfectly by the colouring. It is slight muted and brings out the details of the expressions for the cast and the details of the physical context with subtle care.
There is a great deal going on in this story and the various elements never trip each other up, smart ustilisation of the story framework allows Christopher Baldwin to effectively and dramatically follow the human drama without ever sacrificing the genre requirements for action and close escapes.
Anna Galactic is thoughtful, smart science fiction, a deep pleasure.

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