Friday, February 13, 2015
In the previous book, an earthling named Gilbert travels with Aoléon to her homeworld of Mars, the sequel picking up where the first left off. In an interesting but certainly not bad design choice, the author begins the sequel’s first chapter at number six, the original book having five chapters, similar to how J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t reset “Book” numbers with his two sequels to The Fellowship of the Ring.
The sixth chapter of the franchise begins with Gilbert testing out his spacesuit that, alongside the lessened gravity of Mars, allows him to leap high. There are occasional references to other media such as the DC Comics hero Superman and Ayn Rand’s Anthem. The story’s first illustration depicts several shiny green-armored Martian soldiers with their commander in the background, and is a good depiction of the alien military. The second picture provides a closer look at the aforementioned commander, who is the Luminess, the leader of Aoléon’s people. The third shows the Luminess from behind, with a view of her diverse audience and the city behind them, which all look magnificent.
The fourth image in the chapter shows the backs of the blue-armored Gilbert and Aoléon as a soldier approaches them, the fifth showing the front of Gilbert and his alien companion, alongside closer looks at the diversely-shaped aliens composing the Luminess’s audience, buildings in the backdrop, both good images, with the leader of the people taking especial notice of the earthling and telepathically beckoning him to come near. The following picture shows a close-up of the Luminess’s face and her tiara, the unique structures of the Martian city rounding out the background along with more diverse Martians.
As the leader beckons Gilbert, he receives visions of being home with his cat Xena, although this quickly turns into a nightmare. Aoléon and Gilbert then find themselves on the run from the Luminess, the former explaining that the leader was using the power of mind control on the latter. Backstory on the inhabitants of Earth follows, along with a visit to the Martian girl’s family, Gilbert receiving introductions to pizza-like Martian cuisine not to mention the family and its pets, with Deimos, Aoléon’s father, providing a few details on his job, after which the chapter ends.
Bizwat the Procyon
This reviewer had a bit of trouble at first determining that the odd third letter in the seventh chapter’s title was a Z, although fortunately, the name Bizwat is mentioned in normal lettering at the beginning of the chapter, which introduces the character, who is a member of the elite military group, the Procyons and works undercover as a pizza deliverer. Following this introduction is a nice view of the skyline of the Martian city and his receiving his next delivery destination as Aoléon’s house, after which is another view of the megalopolis’s gorgeous skyline. The description of Bizwat’s journey to her home is nice, with Aoléon knowing him, at least with regards to his secret identity.
Then comes a closer view of the cityscape, with gorgeous golden buildings and plenty of diversely-colored aliens at the bottom. Aoléon introduces Bizwat to Gilbert, with further mention of the Martians’ milk-like galact, which ends the chapter’s subsection. The next part of the chapter begins at the Martian family’s dinner table, where Gilbert has some trouble accommodating to the unusual seating arrangements. Afterward, Deimos explains the science of things such as traveling faster than the speed of light, mentioning beam as the fifth form of matter and engaging in enjoyable banter with Gilbert, the second subsection ending with his calling it a day.
The third subsection of the seventh chapter commences with Bizwat delivering a pizza to the humorously-named Emo’s Paradise, the section’s first illustration depicting the bluish exterior of the nightclub. The next artwork comes after a couple more sentences, depicting a smiling blue alien and a pizza, although this reviewer couldn’t tell if said Martian was Bizwat delivering the pizza or its intended recipient, Andromeda Supernova, receiving the pie. Then a few burglars confront Bizwat in want of his vehicle, the following illustration depicting him in his violet-lined armor in the middle of a jump.
In the middle of Bizwat’s confrontation comes the depiction of one of his assailants, a red-armored and scarlet bug-eyed alien firing a gun. The following piece of art shows multiple members of the bug-eyed Martian’s brethren, the conflict ultimately concluding, and the chapter reaching a satisfying end.
Martian Space Academy
The eighth chapter of the series commences with Gilbert and Aoléon visiting the Martian Space Academy, its first illustration depicting the two hovering above its many gold buildings riding a hoverboard, a nice piece overall. At the Academy the pair meets with several exchange students from worlds other than Earth, another nice artwork depicting a few of the non-Martian beings. On the way to a class, Aoléon encounters a female bully and her entourage, the next image depicting two of them, the foremost one having a sneer upon her face, following which is a sizeable banter among the characters interrupted by another illustration depicting Aoléon, Gilbert (still in his special spacesuit), and two of the adversaries, with only two of them depicted though the text says Charm, the chief of the bullies, has two accomplices.
The next image shows a back view of Gilbert and Aoléon bantering with Charm and her main companion, who always has a hand to her mouth as in prior pieces, with the conflict ended by a promise of a race after school. The earthling and his Martian friend ultimately go to a classroom, an illustration depicting it gorgeously with a window view of the city’s lovely golden buildings. Whereas the first depiction of the classroom shows the students from behind, the following one shows them with the instructor having his back towards the viewer, the next picture showing a close-up of one of the squid-like pupils.
As the class progresses, another piece of art shows prominently a jellyfish-like student with other nearby students, the astronomy lesson progressing thoroughly afterward, with occasional backstory in the mix. The class eventually ends and both Gilbert and Aoléon travel en route to the latter’s following course, with an illustration concluding the eighth chapter’s first subsection, one depicting both Aoléon in her yellow clothing and Gilbert still in his blue spacesuit in an arched tunnel, windows depicting other academy buildings beyond the one they occupy then.
In the brief section that follows, Aoléon’s next class involves zero gravity maneuvering, the Martian continuing to warn Gilbert not to draw attention to himself. The following subsection begins at the academy’s cafeteria equivalent, and after lunch, Aoléon participates in psi-ball, sort of a cross between dodgeball and capture the flag, with an illustration depicting Gilbert waving at the viewer from a platform alongside what is evidently the arena where the sport occurs. The next illustration depicts Aoléon upon her hoverboard with a sphere of light within her right hand, participating in the sport.
After the match is over, Aoléon and Gilbert participate in the latter’s first phased-matter jump to a pizza place for celebration, the final illustration of the main text depicting the joint, shortly after which the book ends satisfactorily. A glossary of terms for younger readers unfamiliar with the book’s more complex jargon follows, always a welcome feature, even for more experienced readers such as this reviewer, who consequentially became familiar with some of the series’ native terms. The author afterward gives special thanks to various people involved in the production of the novel, a final illustration expressing Aoléon and the author’s love for the Modo software responsible for the CG illustrations.
The Luminess of Mars is, for the most part, an enjoyable sequel with nice colorful CG illustrations, and the stylistic choices that this reviewer felt were odd in the artwork for the original novel aren’t as prevalent, although there are some minor incongruities such as an unusual depiction of the letter Z for the title of the chapter Bizwat the Procyon, which looks more like an L or C, and it’s rarely unclear as to whom a few pieces of art depict exactly, but those who enjoyed the first book will most definitely enjoy its first sequel, especially younger audiences.
Friday, February 6, 2015
This first installment of a juvenile science fiction story follows a boy named Gilbert Sullivan who befriends a female alien named Aoléon and has a series of adventures. The cover art of the series’ titular character is decent for the most part, with the alien on a hoverboard over a farmfield. The minor illustration of a furry violet alien with eyes at the end of the center two of its four stalks looks believable as well.
The first chapter introduces Gilbert Sullivan, a young boy haunted by nightmares of alien abductions, with strange occurrences happening in real life in sync with his dreams. The first illustration in this chapter of Gilbert Sullivan sitting up in his bed is somewhat disturbing, with the boy having wide-open eyes and a crooked smile. While he does bear the same odd expression in the chapter’s second piece of art, it does give the reader a good feel for his bedroom. In the third and final illustration of the chapter, where Gilbert peers through his telescope, his gloved hands appear a tad oversized.
The second chapter follows an alien’s voyage through space and eventual arrival on Earth, after which comes her introduction as Aoléon to Gilbert, and focuses on their initial interactions such as that with Tripod the dog and eventual conflict with Farmer Johnson. The second chapter’s opening illustration depicts a spaceship traveling at light speed, with the vessel being believable with prismatic effects in the space around it. The second artwork depicts a closer look of the intergalactic ship with Aoléon inside, the ship still being believable and appearing over a colorful explosive backdrop. The third two-part illustration depicts different views of the planet Saturn with its rings, near which Aoléon’s ship travels, these views being nice and believable as well.
The next artwork depicts the ship flying near the Moon and the Earth, both worlds having good texturing as well. In the subsequent image, Gilbert is within a cornfield under a bright starry sky staring at the viewer, and smiling, another odd design choice that nonetheless isn’t as odd as the first chapter’s initial illustration. In the art of Gilbert and Aoléon meeting for the first time, it somewhat seems as though they’re floating far above the ground instead of resting upon it. The illustration depicting Aoléon, Gilbert, and Tripod the dog is one of the stronger ones of the book, with Gilbert’s expression being more reasonable than in some previous pieces in the book. For the first illustration of Famer Johnson firing his shotgun, his expression looks somewhat odd and trapped between happiness and anger.
This chapter opens with Air Force pilots pursuing Aoléon’s vessel, and integrates flying cows, whose expressions look somewhat creepy in the section’s first illustration, although the depiction of the pilot’s view and the sky definitely look better. The following two pieces depict the pursuit of the alien craft by Air Force pilots, whose vessels look realistic, with pretty scenery as well. The art afterward shows Gilbert and Aoléon in the spacecraft with the Air Force jets behind them, the former’s expression looking somewhat goofy, especially with his roundish teeth.
The Air Force pilots and the alien ship ultimately come near a passenger plane, another illustration depicting this encounter, Gilbert and Aoléon’s expressions appearing the same as in the prior piece featuring both, although the former’s definitely looks better from a distance. The pursuit takes the Air Force jets and the alien craft into foreign waters, another artwork depicting a pair of sailors thrown off their small ship. The next illustration depicts a nice view of tundra and mountains in the north of Earth, the chase not then being over.
The pursuit of the alien and Gilbert takes them to London, another piece depicting them near London’s Houses of Parliament and the Westminster Clock Tower (known more commonly and erroneously as Big Ben, actually the name of one of its bells). The next illustration depicting Gilbert and Aoléon shows the former with a scared expression, arms and hands in the air, appearing goofy here as well, especially with his aforementioned roundish teeth. The chase goes to Paris, France, as well, the following artwork showing a bottoms-up view of the Eiffel Tower with the pilot that ejected from his plane soaring down to safety via parachute. The chapter concludes with a journey to Mars, a beautiful space illustration terminating the third chapter.
The penultimate chapter opens with a goofy illustration depicting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Stryker, who discusses the prior occurrences involving the alien craft with the President, Vice President, and others, the chapter containing plenty of humorous banter and serving as the story’s chief form of comic relief.
The final chapter begins with a beautiful illustration depicting Gilbert and Aoléon’s arrival at Mars. The following art shows the ship at a closer view, near the planet’s underside, Gilbert having an excited expression and the Martian looking at him. They ultimately enter the planet’s atmosphere, populated by other spaceships, another piece of art depicting this and the lovely Martian surface. Following this is the vessel’s arrival at a well-described Martian city sticking out from one of its massive craters, illustrated well in the book. The next piece looks gorgeous as well, depicting a closer view of the Martian megalopolis, with nice lighting.
The further close-up of the city in the illustration depicted afterwards one could definitely describe as “trippy,” given its psychedelic coloring, although this is by no means a bad thing. Gilbert and Aoléon eventually land and depart their ship, the following art showing them upside-down, Gilbert in a space suit and not looking ridiculous for a change like he did in previous illustration. Many parts of the chapter that follow have occasional political commentary stemming from the fact that artificial intelligence, unswayable by greed or corruption, runs the alien city instead of living beings, with occasional humor, as well, after which the novel reaches its end and leaves room open for follow-ups.
In the end, in spite of some of the odd artistic choices in the illustrations, the first part of this new series is a good one, with the book always clarifying the settings of the various portions of its chapters, and while the art isn’t perfect, it does flow naturally with the story, and definitely helps in the end more than hurts.