The Stars Change and The Walking Dead [Compendiums 1 and 2]

The Stars Change was an interesting book in a quickly sketched universe. The setting is an interesting one; a university planet several generations after its founding. The elapsed time since the founding allows the local culture and religion to drift from their real world roots, but keeps it close enough in time that the source shines through.

I asked for the book after reading the author’s Big Idea piece; rereading that article, the book did a good job on delivering on her promise. The world makes sense, and I really liked the cultural underpinnings that tied the characters together. I’d forgotten that her goal was to write something light and sexy… the sex, especially, continued into the final product. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it’s more central to the story than most SF that I’ve read.

The heroes of the tale feel mundane in a good way… the aliens are alien, but everyone is just an average person, you know? It’s a tale of communities and individuals doing what they can, despite serious constraints, rather than unfettered heroes with tremendous resources solving everything.

I’d heard a lot about The Walking Dead; we sell a few board games with the theme and I have friends who rave about the TV adaptation in in my facebook feed. Jennifer picked it up a few years ago, but I put it off. It’s a graphic novel, which I’m slow to promote to the bedside reading stack… mostly because it’s slower for me than streaming text. And I never quite pick a level of picture-reading that makes me happy; I’m tempted to slide over the pictures at text reading speed, but sometimes there are interesting subtle things going on in the panel. In the end, I try to hit a sweet spot, where I view the pictures in enough detail to appreciate them, but read through quickly enough that the plot keeps a good flow.

I like the story, particularly the emphasis on the people who just don’t cope well. It makes the story feel more grounded–and lets less ridiculous levels of bravery shine, instead of getting buried in endless one-upsmanship (in body count or whatever).

Rick is a good character to carry us through; his sense of responsibility makes him an attractive point of view for the world. As the episodes continue, he faces challenges that he cannot meet and his personality proves similarly warped by the emerging world. Several times he pays a terrible price; his resilience is amazing but believable.

The story isn’t over, but Volume 3 doesn’t appear the be out yet. Compendium 1 has a great break point to end it; Compendium 2 is a bit more stream of story in its ending. I look forward to continuing the tale when the next chapter is collected. (I like his belated realization, near the end of the second book, about what goals a larger community can take on.)