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ESCAPE FROM TERRA Volume 2 Paperback – October 15, 2011
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I swept my misgivings aside and delved into the world, well perhaps universe is a better word, that has been made manifest by Sandfort, Bieser, and Oaks. I was pleasantly surprised by the various journeys of which I became a witness.
From the innuendo laden story of The Big Head, to the story of space pirates marooning a couple of prospectors, this book is full of laughs and adventures.
Another reviewer (on amazon) stated that it is only possible for this book to be enjoyed by anarcho-capitalists and others of similar mindset, likening the story to a chick-tract. Well, I've read a couple of chick-tracts in my day, and found them quite informative on the subjects presented. I don't neccessarily agree with all of what is presented in a chick-tract as truth, but it does present the viewpoint of the presenter in a way that is easy to understand. Such is the case with Escape from Terra, V2.
My favorite story is about the Thai girl that escapes from the Juvenial Lunar Penal Colony. The story is quite disturbing in the beginning, and I felt physically uncomfortable; but out evil and desparation springs an uplifting story of how things could be if we let ourselves Escape from Terra.
In my review of the first graphic novel volume of this webcomic series, I lamented over how this comic could have been truly great hard sci-fi. Alas, we are not given that. Here Sandfort and crew give us more of the same, great premises, but they are ruined by the Jack Chick Tract-like preaching on the joys of anarcho-capitalism. It's a shame since one of the stories deals with two of the few half-decent characters in the story, the Guzman brothers, as they are waylaid by space-going pirates. The ingenuity and real physics in how the brothers escape being stranded on an asteroidal moonlet to get back to their ship and then free it from the pirates is nothing short of brilliant (hint: it involves clever re purposing of a mass driver). The two stars I give for this are for that alone. But, like with the stories of the first volume, the very next follow up to this involved how our enlightened Cerereans go about putting the pirates on trial and their punishments. The problem is that the trial falls into ham-fisted preaching. It also shows that maybe Sandfort had second thoughts about the horrific execution of Admiral Harris and a young gunner in the one earlier story arc by a vengeful child, who was perhaps justified in killing Harris, but more than likely acted improperly in executing the gunner, who when just seconds after witnessing the cold-blooded killing of Harris, panics out and goes crazy rather than give a coherent defense for himself. So now we know the anarcho-capitalists on Ceres have a judicial system. That implies a form of government, or at least a quasi one that everyone can agree will give a fair judgement.
But that leads in turn to other issues.
Like where is the checks and balances on that arbitration service? If they are a paid for their service, how many are out there and why not buy one that'll give you the decision you want? And won't the Other Guy do the same in a dispute? The only reason it works is because, well, Sandfort's characters are all perfect. The arbiter is not prone to greed and corruption, but is just another enlightened Gary Stu like most of the other EFT characters. We are shown that the woman who takes up voluntarily defending the pirates is a naive, dull-witted individual. When the Guzmans claim to have proof of the pirate's being guilty (through recordings via their ship's monitoring systems), she falls apart and gives in. Even the most green attorney in today's real world would likely ask that the recordings and black boxes on the ship be turned over for intensive analysis by a trusted third or even fourth party that would determine if those are real or faked first before then giving in. After all, the technology portrayed in EFT is advanced enough that photographic fakery would be beyond the wildest imagining of anything we have today, and consider the advances in Photoshop and other graphic digital manipulation technologies in just the last 10 years in real life! So why wouldn't the pirates' self-appointed attorney question it? Because in Sandfort's verse, anyone in opposition to his Mary Suetopians IS stupid or must be, and so are the straw villians are such to be mocked until they either are killed, driven off, or achieve enlightement.
Sandfort also gives lipservice to the practice of the Cereians making convicted criminals into slaves/indentured servants (at least when they're not executing them summarily at any rate). This is the fate of the pirates, and one is murdered in cold blood for a dispute in a bar over a card game. Another story subplot that I take exception to since the guy is set up to be the latest of Sandfort's strawmen to demonstrate why there is so little crime in his perfect anarcho-capitalist world. The former pirate cannot abide real work and is only good at anti-social criminal activities, but there is apparently nothing for him to do since everyone is so perfect he can't find anything to exploit, except being good as a card shark. However the circumstances are a little more than disturbing, like the the Admiral Harris and Gunner executions. For one, the bartender takes automatically the side of a patron, who despite presenting no evidence what-so-ever of the former pirate cheating at a card game, takes it at face value and kicks out the former pirate, threatening to have him blacklisted with other establishments, and later the former pirate disappears and it is strongly hinted the patron murdered him. But it's all good because the former pirate was a very bad man and couldn't adjust to the Cerereans' perfect way of life. End of story.
A similar thing happens in the story Mary Sue Fiorella returns in. An interesting plot involving an obvious extraterrestrial hoax to advertise a giant amusement park and resort in space is ruined by a clumsy and flat attempt at fan service involving a lesbian relation that develops between Fiorella and the captain of the mining ship she works on. We are also given a ham-fisted attempt at humor when Fiorella asks the hotel room computer to switch over to the the Majel Barrett Roddenberry computer voice from Star Trek. Cute, but it is too much of a modern pop-culture reference, and unfortunately Sandfort tries to be all hip with too many similar gags througout EFT that it strains credibility that characters only ever reference late 20th century and early 21st century pop culture. Don't they have their own pop culture that can be referenced from time-to-time?
The rest of the story is just as flat with One Dimensional Bad Guys from the UW navy trying to assassinate Fiorella and her friend for doing in Strawman Harris with her Mary Sue awesomeness. More mustache twirling cliches abound. Ho hum.
Another story involves clumsy attempts by the UW to ruin the Cererean way of life for having stopped Admiral Harris. They try staging false muggings against former Terran citizens, for instance, until a cowboy-stylized Gary Stu puts a stop to that. When it looks like they might be introducing intelligent UW villains, that gets ruined as well. Because to have the bad guys win, well, we can't have that, now can we? This all climaxes in UW troops billeting in a former hotel bought out by UW agents, and spoiling for a fight. They don't succeed because again the cowboy Gary Stu puts a stop to it with some really convoluted tricks. The whole plot by the UW apparently was to stage a false flag operation to allow the UW an excuse to go to war.
All I have to say to that is WTF.
As if the UW needed an excuse after what happened with Harris and his fleet. You'd think the UW would have ramped up and had a major attack force bearing down on Ceres and be bombarding the place until it was reduced to molten debris, or the people surrendered. The troops were largely unnecessary. The UW only needed to quietly move in people who would take advantage of "the system" on Ceres, taking over major businesses and stockpiling weapons and committing acts of sabotage and assassination as they prepared to both militarily and ideologically take over the place.
There is more, but I think this is enough to make the point. EFT once again could be something special, but falls flat on it's face because Sandfort cannot get past his almost dogmatically zealous belief in the perfection of anarcho-capitalism, and his now increasingly clumsy attempts at writing. The characters are not interesting anymore, great concepts are ruined. If you must read this story, just read it online, at least it's free, except for the time you've lost.