Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Microreview [book]: Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos

Ellison, Harlan and Paul Chadwick. Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos [DC, 2013].
Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos

The Meat

There is a really neat idea inside of Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos regrettably surrounded by a bunch of really tired ideas. When I first heard about the project, I thought it was cool that at age 78 legendary sci-fi writer and dean of salty internet ranting Harlan Ellison was trying something new and venturing into graphic novels. But it becomes clear on page one that "trying something new" might not be what's actually going on here.

It never seems like Ellison actually wrote a graphic novel. I'm not sure what he did write - whether it was a novel, a short story, a detailed outline, or something else - but it is evident that he created a prose document and handed it over to the artist to adapt into a graphic novel. So page one panel one shows a pair of scarred hands gripping the metal railing of a mining elevator, and we have two blocks of text, too, which read "Scarred hands grip the scarred railing." There's much too much of this kind of redundancy throughout, where somebody wanted to hold onto Ellison's prose at the expense of the reading experience of a graphic novel.

As for the story itself, we learn that in the time when the action takes place, computers have not only achieved intelligence, but also the ability to predict the future. These Crisis Computers have predicted the end of the world, and now a mysterious guy in a robe is zipping around the solar system gathering up a cast of weirdos to stop the predicted catastrophe from coming true. It's The Magnificent Seven in space, and The Magnificent Seven was just The Seven Samurai in the Old West, so we're on at least the third iteration of this idea now. Ellison has not improved it, so while the ultimate reveal of what is threatening the world's existence is actually novel and thought-provoking, getting there doesn't offer very many surprises.

The Math

Objective Quality: 5/10

Bonuses: +1 for art by Paul Chadwick that gives the book a nice old-school comics vibe throughout; +1 for the reveal of what the team of misfits has to confront and stop

Penalties: -1 for a familiar plot simply dropped into a new setting; -1 for a cast of largely forgettable characters

Nerd Coefficient: 5/10. Equal parts good and bad.

[See explanation of our non-inflated scores here.]