Cixin Liu’s The Wandering Earth by: A Graphic Novel by Cixin Liu and Stefano Raffaele (graphic novel review).

As part of the new series of graphic novels adaptations of Cixin Liu’s work, one of his best-known short stories, ‘The Wandering Earth’, has been adapted by Christophe Bec into a fabulous and sumptuous looking work. I read the original prose story in the collection of the same name and I’ve also seen the film, which was visually impressive and great fun. In all three versions, this is a story of epic scale and gigantic engineering projects immediately reminiscent of Cixin Liu’s second and third ‘Three-Body’ books.

With the threat of the sun’s demise, humanity embarks on an ambitious project to take Earth out of solar orbit and head for a new home. The technological, geological and social impacts of the various stages of this project are given equal attention with a fine balance between the personal experience of the main character and the large-scale reactions of the masses.

The graphic novel format enables both ends of the spectrum to be demonstrated wonderfully, with crisp, clear artwork from Stefano Raffaele that fairly glows on the page. Scene-setting panels that break across the top of a double page give voice to fabulous vistas of future cities, scenes of natural disasters, epic sunrises and large-scale technological installations. They are panels that draw in the eye and that you can spend quite some time absorbing.

Conversely, other panels that home in on a single face of one of the main characters and their reaction to what is going on are amazingly effective. One panel in particular with a single melancholy face and a plain white background is startlingly good.

The plot of this graphic novel version does not follow the same story as the film, but it’s quite a while since I read the original story so I don’t remember how closely it follows that version. The opening section follows a school trip in a sub-orbital flight to witness the ignition of the massive plasma engines that will push Earth out of its orbit. A lot of this opening section could be described as infodumping in less deft hands but Cixin Liu has couched it in terms of not only lessons from the teacher, but also discussions and arguments among the students.

The graphics make this even more involving and allow the background to the story to be explained without getting bogged down in facts. It’s a large-scale story, both in terms of the Earth being moved and also the time scale covered. The plan involves sending the Earth on a 1,500 year voyage to Proxima Centauri, but not until a century of halting the Earth’s rotation and increasing the length of its orbit in order to build up speed.

The authorities are planning a long time ahead and this affects the characters’ view of family, whether it’s a good idea to have a child and what their life will consist of. It brings a really poignant feel amongst the technology and grand scenes.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing graphic novel that has whetted my appetite further for the forthcoming editions in the series.

Gareth D Jones

July 2021

(pub: Head Of Zeus/an Ad Astra book. 132 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-80110-000-7)

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