Graphic Novel Reviews

The Wandering Earth

(2021) Christopher Bec & Stefano Raffaele, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, 126pp, ISBN 978-1 801-10000-7


The story begins with a school class learning of how the Earth slowed its rotation so that one side constantly is in day and the other in night. It was a deliberate move as, 300 years earlier, astronomers had found that the Sun was about to leave its main sequence stage and become a red giant.  It will become enlarged and engulf the inner planets: mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.  To escape humanity embarks on a staggering project using giant planetary rockets to slow the Earth's rotation before taking it away from the Sun, indeed, out of the Solar System to Proxima Centauri.

Earth's citizens construct huge underground cities and move there. But as the Earth moved, volcanic activity threatened some of the cities. Yet humanity survived.

The Earth picked up speed moving away from the Sun.  As it did the planet's surface cooled and the very atmosphere froze.

Yet, with no sign of the helium flash that will signal the beginning of the Sun's transformation into a red giant, some began to question the great project…

Cixin Liu is extremely well known in China and has been billed as China's answer to Arthur C. Clarke, though in fact he is probably China's answer to Stephen Baxter. Cixin Liu is the author of The Three-Body Problem which was first published, serialised in the Chinese magazine Science Fiction World in 2006. That novel was short-listed for, and won, a number of major SF awards including winning the 2015 Hugo Award for 'Best Novel' and short-listed for the 2015 Locus and the 2015 Campbell Memorial Award and the US Nebula: all worthy award nominations.

However, it has to be said that Cixin Liu's SF is not everyone's cup of tea. While his novels are rich in SF concepts under-pinned with solid science exposition and exploring grand concepts, this strength is also a weakness: his novels are a very rich read.  Having said that The Wandering Earth graphic novel is actually based on a novelette that can be found in a collection of the same name.

Here, Head of Zeus coming up with a series of graphic novel adaptations of Cixin Liu's stories, of which The Wandering Earth is the first, is most welcome. This frees the stories of their exposition yet visually conveys the author's sense-of-wonder (sensawunda).

Christopher Bec's artwork is lucid and the graphic novel contains three pull-out pages to provide panoramic perspectives at three visually impressive moments.

If you have not read Cixin Liu, then these graphic novels are an easy way into Cixin's work.  Conversely, if you have read them, then these adaptations make for welcome visual realisation: certainly Cixin's fans should give them a try. At the moment, along with The Wandering Earth, Head of Zeus are releasing three other graphic adaptations: Sea of Dreams, Yuanyuan's Bubbles and The Village Teacher.

And in case you did not know, The Wandering Earth has also had a cinematic adaptation (China's most expensive film to date) whose limited N. American release saw it do comparatively well.

Jonathan Cowie


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