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The Moon Moth Paperback – May 22, 2012
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“Honored as one of science fiction's Grand Masters, Vance demonstrates his rich vocabulary and skill at depicting unfamiliar cultures in this classic SF story from the 1960s.” ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Jack Vance, born John Holbrook Vance in 1916, was one of the greatest masters of fantasy and science fiction. He was the winner of many awards for his work and career: the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Among his awards for particular works were the Hugo award in 1963 for The Dragon Masters, in 1967 for The Last Castle, and in 2010 for his memoir This is Me, Jack Vance! He won a Nebula Award in 1966 for The Last Castle. He won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1990 for Lyonesse: Madouc. . He also won an Edgar for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for The Man in the Cage.
Vance published more than 60 books in his long career, sometimes under pseudonyms. Among them were 11 mystery novels, three of them as Ellery Queen. He wrote some of the first, and perhaps best, examples of "planetary adventures", including a novel called Big Planet. His "Dying Earth" series were among the most influential fantasy novels ever written, inspiring both generations of writers, and the creators of Dungeons and Dragons.
Vance's series from Tor include The Demon Princes, The Cadwal Chronicles, The Dying Earth, The Planet of Adventure, and Alastor. Vance's last novels were a series of two: Ports of Call and Lurulu.
Jack Vance was a sailor, a writer, an adventurer, a music critic, and a raconteur. He died in May 2013.
Humayoun Ibrahim lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Moon Moth is his first graphic novel.
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My wife comments, "in trying to parse the code as I read this graphic novel, I experience something of what an underworld character experiences trying to parse the social code of Sirene as expressed in music."
Vance's story involves a cleverly conceived culture in which status or prestige is paramount, and communication depends upon mastery of several musical instruments. To fit in on Sirene, a visitor from Earth needs to procure a mask, a houseboat, and some slaves.
Thissell, the new consular representative to Sirene, is given little of the information he needs to survive. After three months on the job, however, he's notified that an assassin has arrived on Sirene. He is ordered to kill the assassin, but finding him is difficult in a culture where everyone wears a mask. The story eventually turns into a mystery: has the assassin killed an offworlder and assumed that person's identity, and if so, which mask conceals the assassin?
Vance has always been a good storyteller. "The Moon Moth" showcases his skill as a writer of mysteries and science fiction. The ending is wonderfully ironic. On the basis of the story alone, I would give "The Moon Moth" 4 or maybe 4 1/2 stars.
A couple of things bothered me about this graphic adaptation that have nothing to do with Vance. The lettering is of inconsistent quality. Of much greater importance, the art is just too cartoonish to carry a serious story. The artist probably picked this story because he does a better job rendering masks than faces. On the basis of the art alone, I would give "The Moon Moth" 2 stars. Combining the art with the story, I wind up at 3, maybe 3 1/2.
Edwer Thissell, the new consul from Earth to the planet Sirene and is having trouble adjusting to the way of life on Sirene. On Sirene everyone wears masks and accompanies speech with a variety of muscial instruments. There is no currency but your honor, or the honor that others perceive you have. Edwer is having trouble and as a bumbling outsider is given the lowly mask of a Moon Moth. Things get more complicated as Edwer tries to solve a murder mystery; but things are confounded by the fact that everyone wears masks and no one knows who is who.
As I mentioned above I am not familiar with the original short story that this graphic novel is based on. There are some interesting concepts in here. Basically they are around the type of society Edwer ends up living in. Imagine a society with no currency except the honor that you have as perceived by others. Kind of crazy right? Crazy and interesting all at once. Then imagine that everyone in this society wears masks and speaks using a variety of musical instruments. Yep, the society just got a bit crazier. Now...imagine that some one is murdered and you have to figure everything out, having not lived in this society and having a limited understanding of what the heck these people are doing. It makes for an interesting story on a number of levels.
So I enjoyed the story it was crazy and entertaining and even made you think a little bit. I did have a couple problems with it. The whole thing is illustrated in a cartoony way with lots of pastel colors; definitely not my favorite. I guess it fit okay for the story, but the pastel light-heated colors gave the story a even more goofy feeling. At times it was hard to tell which instruments the people were playing while speaking and some of the frames were hard to follow because of this.
Also Edwer comes off as kind of whiny at points. He keeps talking about how no one told him it would be like this. I kept thinking he should get over it, stop whining, and start working to understand the things that he needed to.
Overall though I enjoyed the story. It is a somewhat comic look at a crazy society and at how an already complex problem (a murder) can become even more complex when society is so different from what we consider normal. A great read for those who love science fiction with a light tone to it. The illustration wasn't my favorite; lots of pastel colors and sometimes hard to follow...but it was okay. If you are a Jack Vance fan or a sci-fi fan I would recommend giving it a read through.
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