One of the shows I used to watch in reruns as a kid was Lost in Space. Created by Irwin Allen, known for shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel (awesome show!) and Land of the Giants, Lost in Space centered on the adventures of the Robinson family, their robot, and, of course, Doctor Smith. When Earth becomes overpopulated and unable to sustain the human race, the Robinsons leave on a spaceship bound for an alien world they hope can be colonized. That ship, the Jupiter 2, is sabotaged by Dr. Smith, and the family ends up—Lost in Space.
This familiar story is very similar to the latest graphic novel I’ve read, Black Science Volume 1: How To Fall Forever, by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera and Dean White.
Being a fan of Lost in Space—both the television show and, yes, I’ll admit it, the movie based on the show—Black Science held a certain appeal for me. I wasn’t disappointed.
Can you say there’s a “lost in space” trope at this point? Following in the footsteps of the original TV show, you also had shows like Battlestar Galactica and Farscape about people lost in space and trying to find their way home. But perhaps Sliders is a better parallel to Black Science. In that show, you had a group of people moving between alternate realities using a device with a timer. The timer provided them with a countdown until the next slide. Miss the slide, get trapped in a world not your own.
Very similar to Black Science.
Grant McKay and his team have created The Pillar, a device designed to allow Dimensionauts to move between the realities of the Eververse in search of the resources the Earth can no longer provide the human race. After years of failures, they’ve finally managed a successful test—The Pillar works. Thrilled, Grant decides to show his kids what he has accomplished. For safety, everyone wears Dimensionaut suits, sleek environmental suits to protect them from potentially harsh environments.
Which is a good thing because someone has sabotaged The Pillar. McKay, his children Nathan and Pia, fellow scientists Jennifer, Rebecca and Shawn, security officer Ward, bureaucrat Kadir and his assistant, Chandra, are all swept up by The Pillar and deposited on a new, hostile world— the first of many. Imagine worlds where frogs have become the dominant species, or where the Americas weren’t discovered until the locals were strong enough to wage war on Europe. An endless stream of possibilities, and each more dangerous than the last for McKay and his people.
And with The Pillar damaged and randomly jumping them from one dangerous reality to another, time is running out.
There is a lot of meat to this book. Plenty for everyone to like, or dislike. The dangers are real. People die. The worldbuilding is solid even though we’re jumping through different realities. Each of those worlds pops off the page and has their own distinct look and feel. We still get a sense of where McKay and crew came from, what life was like for them back home, and why they need to get back there, through flashbacks.
The characters have just as much depth as the worlds they visit. We start from McKay’s point of view and return to it often throughout the book. He definitely has his flaws, but he's trying to do everything he can to get his people to safety and back home. Kadir is another point-of-view character early on, and we get a completely different look at the group and the Pillar project through his eyes. There’s a lot of tension between McKay and Kadir, between McKay and his kids, and the group as a whole. Not a perfect family or group, and to be thrown into mortal danger at every turn isn’t helping.
This book is a strong new addition to the Lost in Space family of stories. Highly recommend.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.