Cixin Liu’s Sea of Dreams: A Graphic Novel by Cixin Liu and Jok (graphic novel review).

August 5, 2021 | By | Reply More

Several of Cixin Liu’s novels and two short story collections have been translated into English and I’ve read all of them, as well as having the chance to meet him in person in London when he was over in the UK. As well as film and television series that have been rumoured, now several of his short stories have been adapted into graphic novel format and appear in the UK in rather smart-looking covers from publisher Head of Zeus. The first of them is ‘Sea Of Dreams’, based on the short story of the same name that appeared in English in the collection ‘Hold Up The Sky’.

A vast alien intellect visits the Earth and declares itself to be a Low-Temperature Artist, arriving initially at an ice-sculpting festival in China. Inspired by what it sees, it decides to create something on a much grander scale, using the Earth’s entire supply of water. The difference in scale and outlook between this visitor and Yan Dong, the human artist it interacts with, is nicely illustrated both by the story itself and of course by the illustrations. The alien cannot understand why Yan Dong is more concerned with human survival than with art, which it views to be the ultimate purpose of existence. The story leads eventually to one of Cixin Liu’s grand and impressive feats of engineering of the kind that often feature in his work.

The oddly banal purpose of the alien’s visit, Yan Dong’s discomfort at being thrust into the limelight as the Low Temperature Artist’s preferred liaison and the unamused reactions of the military were essential parts of the original story and come across wonderfully in the facial expressions appearing in this work. Some of Cixin Liu’s regular themes appear here: an enigmatic alien visitor, an optimistic view of humanity and a regular, seemingly-unimportant character taking centre stage.

The overall tone of this graphic novel well reflects Cixin Liu’s thoughtful, measured pace, as typified in the story this book is based on and his writing as a whole. It mixes questions of philosophy with realistic characters and relationships. Quirky bits of humour glimmer here and there and an overall sense of optimism prevails. I am most definitely looking forward to the rest of the series.

Gareth D Jones

July 2021

(pub: Head Of Zeus/an Ad Astra book. 98 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-80024-997-4)

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Category: Comics, Scifi

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