Every week I get emails from various comic websites about the books that are being released the coming week. I usually skim through them and see if anything catches my eye. Not too long ago I saw a book titled Night and the Enemy. The title and the cover art totally had me enamored as to what the story was about. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into and the backstory of the book itself, so I tracked down a copy on Ebay.
Harlan Ellison is one of the most celebrated science fiction writers out there. He has written and worked on some very famous shows and books. His most famous books are probably I have no mouth and I must Scream and Boy and his Dog among so many others. He has numerous credits to his name and had written a plethora of short stories that are also quite famous. Honestly, I would love to model my writing career after his. I am not sure there is another individual who is more famous for writing short stories, I am sure there is but he is certainly one of the best. Ellison also has numerous movie and television show credits to his name as well. Some of his early work includes writing for The Twilight Zone TV show. Ellison is also said to be notoriously difficult to work with, at least that is what Wikipedia says. He also sued James Cameron to have his name added to the credits of the film The Terminator. Ellison claims that Cameron used his short story Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand for his historic movie. I have not read either of these but from what I understand the beginning of Soldier was basically the opening of The Terminator. So make of that what you will…
This book was nothing like I expected. The book is basically five different stories that deal with a war that has been raging for more than 100 years between humans and the infamous Kyban Civilization. It is hard to really go into much more detail as they are not intertwined. The overall theme of the book is that these stories take place while this war is going on and each story is just a different look at what else is going on during the war. The stories are titled Run for the Stars, Life Hutch, Untouchable Adolescents, and Sleeping Dogs. I think my favorites are Life Hutch and Untouchable Adolescents these two I felt were the coolest and also had the neatest ideas attached to them. The others were ok, nothing really spectacular in my opinion.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph I think what is most important with this book is that story behind the story. From what I have found the original story which was written, I’m not quite sure when, but has been reprinted a few times in particular 1997 in a collection called Slippage by Ellison. As far as I can tell this story was not one of the more famous of his and just seems to be one that has been around for a while. What is somewhat interesting is that in quite a few of Ellison’s short stories he often references the Kyban and the war with humans. I am not sure how many stories he has used this backdrop for but I read it has come up from time to time in quite a few. The book contains the original story as it was written by Ellison and it is very interesting and pretty cool. I think it is also interesting that the artist Ken Steacy seems to be the one mostly responsible for bringing this book to life.
In the forward as well as the afterwards in the book there are more details about how the book came to life and are very neat. As always I think the story behind the story is somewhat fascinating especially when it comes to Ellison as he is an odd cat to say the least.
I want to mention that this book is listed as a graphic novel and honestly I cannot disagree with that term, but I would also say that it is not entirely true. It is far from your traditional graphic novel and for the most part I felt was closer to a real novel, but with artwork to accompany it. There are many pages with tons of writing and dialogue accompanied with small pictures, at times it reminded me of what a grade school history book looked like. The long narrow columns of text with smaller pictures. I do not think this is good or bad in any way, but it is certainly quite a bit different from your traditional graphic novel layout. I don’t have a name for this style other than a novel with graphics, which is basically the same thing, and certainly not quite a catchy. I think more emphasis should be on the novel aspect though.
The artwork is all done by Ken Steacy who owns his own graphic design company now a days. The artwork reminds me of a 70’s style in which the characters are not as detailed and less realistic looking, I think they look more cartoony than usual in some aspects. I do not think the artwork is bad by any means just is certainly dated to an extent in my opinion. I will say that the colors in the book are amazing. Each page is wildly colorful and certainly tries to encapsulate the imagination of these strange new worlds. I think Steacy uses paint to color most of the artwork in the book which makes for a really nice experience and must have taken a great deal of time. I also think it should be said that the artwork does chance from story to story. While it does change it is not a huge difference, although I think the first story Run for the Stars certainly has the most unique artwork in the book. The other stories have a more traditional style relatively speaking.
The other thing that I felt are truly unique were the page layouts. As I mentioned above the book as much more text than a typical graphic novel, so the page layouts are also very different. I have to give Steacy props for coming up with intriguing layouts to keep the reader engaged. Most of the time page layouts are just normal and nothing to discuss, but Steacy certainly had no problem deviating from the norm to get unique look he was after. I will also say that the cover art is totally awesome, but don’t be fooled as to what is inside the cover is drastically different when it comes to the art style. To be honest I am not sure what the cover has to do with the story? Speaking of the cover, the copy I purchased was a hardcover that came with a dust cover that was plain but had a clear circle on it that you could see though. When you place it on the actual cover of the book you can see the cover art that is actually on the book which again is pretty cool, and something that I have not seen before.
If you want to purchase this book you have a few different options. I think recently they released a paperback version of the book which is fairly cheap and you can pick up a used copy for less than $10. The email I received was advertising a new tpb edition, which is how I heard about it. But if you want to get a hardcover they are a little more rare and harder to come by. I bought mine off Ebay and paid around $30 for it, but what I did not realize was that both Steacy and Ellison both signed the interior. I think this is relatively common with this book which is why a hardback is more expensive. Just something to think about before you purchase.
At the end of the day I am not sure if I can recommend this one. It is certainly neat and Ellison is definitely one of the best science fiction writers out there, but the overall book is nothing special in my opinion from a pure literary standpoint. There are other aspects that I felt were more interesting, but no one wants to buy a book for those purposes. I was lured in by the title and the cover art, as always. So if you are a huge Ellison fan you will certainly enjoy this collection, but if you are on the fence I would say you may want to spend your time and money elsewhere, but $5 to $6 for a used copy is not a bad price or way to spend a bored afternoon.