REVIEW

The Wandering Earth

Could the Earth itself be used as the space ship humanity needs to survive when the sun dies? Find out in this graphic adaptation of Cixin Liu’s sci-fi short story

We know the sun will eventually burn itself out, but how humanity will cope with the problem remains to be seen. In his prose short story, Cixin Liu surmises that rather than leaving Earth behind while humanity travels off to find safe haven, our future selves will work out a different idea. Huge engines will feed off the heat of the Earth’s core and power us into outer space, leaving our own solar system behind and heading light years into deep space to find a newer, younger sun.

Full disclosure time: I haven’t read the original story so can’t possibly compare it to this graphic novel. However, I can’t escape the suspicion that some of the detail must have been skipped in this adaptation of the story.

About half the book is devoted to teaching the reader about how all this came about, using a young character growing up and going through school as a mechanism to transfer this knowledge. But the difficulty I have is that it doesn’t really explain anything about the actual physics of the situation. Perhaps the original story skirts around such tricky questions so they don’t get in the way of a good yarn, but I can’t help but think that some well thought through explanations, even if they aren’t completely plausible, would be better than ignoring them.

Instead, the potted history focuses completely on the political and sociological. Arguably this is important, because it has a significant bearing on the direction that the story travels. The population starts off relatively compliant, but the realisation that the journey is going to take hundreds of generations soon nudges compliance into complacency. Were the global governments that made the decisions right to knock Earth out of the orbit that’s served it so well for billions of years, or was it a big mistake? If the people end up thinking of it as a mistake, is there anything that can be done about it?

Aptly, the ending is where it gets interesting, but the conclusions feel somewhat crammed in. There are so many elements to the plot that need to be referenced because of how the ending plays out, that it almost feels like the adaptation started at a pace and ended too soon. Again, without reading the original, I can’t tell you whether that’s a faithful adaptation of the book or a travesty of abridgement, but either way it felt ultimately disappointing.

It’s a bit remiss of me not to mention Stefano Raffaele’s art. This is perfectly decent throughout, arguably more solid than the plot, with some great looking landscapes and disaster set pieces when the excitement kicks in. However, these moments of interplanetary drama are relatively sparse and the story’s overabundance of talking heads leaves some of the art looking a little staid.

To me, then, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was looking forward to experiencing something of Cixin Liu’s science fiction, but I suspect this probably isn’t the best introduction – perhaps I should have gone straight for the original work (something I’d usually recommend). However, there wasn’t a spark here to make me feel like it might be worth it. As a gateway to the author’s work, this feels like a bit of a disappointment.

Have you read the original story? How does it compare with the graphic novel? Comments are always welcome!

2 thoughts on “The Wandering Earth”

  1. I have read the original novella, but not the graphic novel. I suspect this is more an adaptation of the film, which is very different from the novella. The latter is a personal narrative of someone in the early stages of the Earth leaving. The movie is a grand disaster film with a family story as thread.

  2. I did watch the film version (for research purposes!), but it’s quite different to the graphic novel, too. I suspect the graphic novel is probably closer to the original text, but I still haven’t read that so I can’t say for sure.

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