Sunday, April 21, 2013
Book Review: THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON
IT BOOKS/HarperCollins – @ItBooks
AUTHOR: Kevin J. Anderson
COVER: Don Sipley
ISBN: 978-0-06-221985-5; paperback (December 4, 2012)
430pp, B&W, $15.99 U.S.
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster
Written by author Kevin J. Anderson, The Last Days of Krypton is a 2007 prose novel that is based on DC Comics’ Superman mythology. The book, originally published in hardcover by HarperEntertainment, is the never-before told story of the last few years of Krypton, the planet upon which Superman was born as the baby named Kal-El. This past December (2012), It Books published The Last Days of Krypton in a paperback edition.
The Last Days of Krypton opens in the laboratory of Jor-El, Krypton’s most revered scientist and the man who would become Superman’s father. Jor-El’s research and inventions are groundbreaking and cutting-edge. However, Krypton has a conservative, backward-looking, ruling body known as the Kryptonian Council, located in the capitol city of Kandor. For ages, the Council believes that all the necessary inventions have already been created. New science, they believe, is dangerous.
Jor-El usually relinquishes most of his creations and inventions to the Commission for Technology Acceptance in Kandor, which is headed by the ambitious Dru-Zod. Zod is supposed to destroy dangerous inventions, but he has plans of his own. He is embittered because he has not been appointed to the Council seat that he believes is rightfully his.
Jor-El puts aside his disappointments with the Council and with Zod’s commission, as he turns his attention to a young woman he meets. She is Lara, an accomplished artist, historian, and aspiring writer, and the woman who would become Superman’s mother. Jor-El and Lara are like-minded and kindred spirits and seemed destined for marriage.
As Jor-El and Lara’s happiness grows, a horrifying incident occurs. An android called the Brain Interactive Construct (a.k.a Brainiac) attacks Kandor. The diabolical Zod (destined to be the future enemy of Superman known as General Zod) uses Brainiac’s actions to seize power. Although he is initially blind to Zod’s true ambitions, Jor-El joins his brother, Zor-El, who is the mayor of fabled Argo City, in an attempt to save Krypton, both from Zod and from impending disasters.
In The Last Days of Krypton, author Kevin J. Anderson offers appealing characters and a narrative full of compelling plotlines. Jor-El and Lara, as the parents of baby Kal-El the future Superman, are naturally attractive to the readers. Anderson does not rely on that, instead creating characters the readers will want to know. Who are they? What are their hopes, dreams, and fears? What kind of parents will they be?
Anderson also creates and constructs other characters that he brings fully to life. Dru-Zod, who becomes General Zod, is definitely part of the quartet of co-leads, which includes Jor-El, Zor-El, and Lara, that drives this novel. With his colossal ambitions, quicksilver personality, and stormy nature, Zod could be the lead in a novel of his own.
Anderson turns Krypton’s halcyon days of peace and plenty into the waning days of world of oblivious people. This world has multi-faceted political troubles, a few external threats, and an internal menace that is a ticking, time bomb. I found myself reading just to see which disaster would ultimately do-in the mythical Krypton.
In some ways, The Last Days of Krypton is an old-school science fiction novel. Its ambitions are not directly about the affect of science on a world or even speculative about a possible future. It is a quasi-planetary romance set on a faraway alien world and is also reflective of the sci-fi infused fantasy that was the nature of many of DC Comics’ publications in the 1950s and 60s. This is a novel for comic book readers and for fans of Superman, simply because Kevin J. Anderson really makes Krypton live again. That is why The Last Days of Krypton feels like a part of Superman proper.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux