Monday, September 29, 2008

Review: The Last Days of Krypton

I’m not particularly a fan of Superman, so I primarily approached The Last Days of Krypton as a stand alone book. Oh, I’ve seen the various Superman movies and I’ve even seen a few of the old black-and-white television shows. But in comparison to fans that have read all the comic books and seen the various movies and TV shows multiple times, I knew little of the official Superman back story. I also had never read a book by Kevin J. Anderson before (here's an interview that highights just how much he's written). I do, however, read science fiction, so I know how much of it gets published and how little of that is any good. It’s no surprise then, that I approached this book with some apprehension

I was happily surprised, then, to find that this book was quite enjoyable to read. The bare bones of the plot are from the familiar (even to me), existing Superman story: Superman was born on the planet Krypton to a scientist named Jal-El, and his father sent him out into space before the planet exploded. Anderson has done a very good job of fleshing out well-known characters, and of creating a well-paced story that I think works both well for Superman fans and by itself.

The book, of course, has flaws. The writing in the book is good, though not great. Some of the characters, like the secondary villains of Aetyr and Nam-Ek (basically the same baddies from the movie Superman 2), aren’t particularly developed, despite their near-constant presence in the long middle portion of the book. And the constant introduction of disasters—would this be the one to destroy Krypton?—became almost comical. Fortunately, I think even Anderson knew this possible complaint, as he used it to explain why the governing council ignored Jal-El’s final warnings about Krypton’s imminent destruction.

After reading this book, I did some online research to see what die-hard Superman fans had to say about it. Reaction seemed pretty mixed, with a vocal contingent who disliked how Anderson viewed the average Kryptonian (not great). I have to imagine, though, that no matter what Anderson wrote, someone was going to dislike this book, just for daring to tackle a beloved storyline. I’m impressed with how much of the existing Superman canon he managed to incorporate, without overly bogging down the story.

So, who will like this book? Certainly, sci-fi readers, casual fans of Superman and comic book fans in general will all really enjoy The Last Days of Krypton. Will it convert anti-science fiction types to the genre? Probably not. But I think other readers, who find might themselves tempted to stray out of their comfort zone and pick this one up, will be pleasantly treated.

Oh, and the hologram cover? Very cool.

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