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Rasl Volume 1: The Drift Paperback – January 20, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
The debut volume of Bone creator Smiths new series is distinctly not for kids, but its gripping images and swift pacing are as impressive as anything hes done. In its first two chapters we meet Rasl, an art thief whos mixed up in some very weird circumstances: to make his getaways, he passes (painfully) through a sort of other-dimensional warp called the Drift, and sometimes he doesnt end up on the right version of Earth. Hes also got a mysterious gunman following him, a mysterious tattoo on his arm and a prostitute girlfriend with a mysterious necklace that displays a symbol of emergence. More even than Bone, Rasl is built around a few indelible images, like the agonized appearance of Rasl emerging from the Drift and the sinister grin of the strange-faced man whos following him; its a pretty minimal story so far (the book was reviewed from an incomplete galley), and Smith clearly knows more about the world hes building than he lets on. Still, his scrubby, rough-edged brushwork (showcased nicely by the books oversized format) gets across the storys foreboding, quiet moments as well as its chaotic chase scenes, and his knack for character design is always a treat. (Dec.)
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RASL is like nothing you’ve ever read--it’s electric, eerie and riveting;and as close as you get to a masterpiece. Smith is simply peerless.”
Booklist STARRED REVIEW
Smith is a unique talent in the world of comics who’s not afraid to take risks and knows how to pull them off...fascinating.”
Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
Stunning visual narrative that impresses with its originality, sophistication, and complexity.”
John Geddes, USA Today
"Smith is awesome. There’s really no other way to put it...RASL reads like one long, dust-filled, sci-fi,blood-stained, crime noir chase scene.
...”dazzling...demonstrates the same knack for arresting character design that made Smith’s Bone such a rewarding read...”
...briskly paced hardboiled sci-fi hybrid...an inventive mix...”
...audacious...a concentrated thrill.”
RASL is gorgeous, creepy, grim, and crammed with action, history, sex, booze, science, and psuedo-science...a hell of a ride.”
...there is one simple truth in comic life: you must read Jeff Smith’s comics. It’s just the reality of the situation.”
Bill Baker, ForeWord Reviews
"Jeff Smith is perhaps the most accomplished cartoonist and storyteller of his generation, no small praise for an artist whose contemporaries include the likes of Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) and Chris Ware(Acme Library)... [RASL] offers universe-spanning adventure even as it explores those tender and terrible territories within the human heart."
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Top Customer Reviews
Jeff Smith shows what an excellent cartoonist he is by making as different a comic from Bone, his previous work, as is possible. The art is impressive, and there are some interesting elements, but ultimately the comic felt somewhat inconclusive.
There's no question that this is a masterfully-made comic, even though it wasn't ultimately satisfying for me as a reader.
Elements: sci-fi, tesla, hard-hitting main character
Unfortunately, due to RASL's interactions with prostitutes and other unsavory characters, this is a novel I can only recommend to my peers and will need to be kept safe from my young kids' innocent eyes.
Most of the multiple-world works that I've read or watched present the worlds as an intrinsic and unexplained feature of the work's fictional universe. The Q Continuum of Star Trek: The Next Generation, for example, is an extradimensional plane of existence whose powerful, intelligent, and immortal inhabitants, the Q, can jump into our mundane plane to cause mischief. I've tried in vain to find a physical description of the Q Continuum.
But there are exceptions to the take-it-or-leave-it approach. In Ian McDonald's 2007 novel Brasyl, Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is not just an imaginative theory to account for the physically awkward notion of collapsing wave functions; it's also a description of how the world works.
Jeff Smith's comic-book series RASL goes further in exploring the physical basis of multiple worlds. Originally published in 15 black-and-white issues from February 2008 through August 2012, RASL was reissued this month in a single hardbound full-color volume. I read it in one sitting over Labor Day with much pleasure.
Like McDonald, Smith makes use of a speculative theory, in his case a unified field theory that the elderly Nikola Tesla claimed in 1937 to have completed. RASL`s main character, a researcher named Robert Johnson who later assumes the name RASL, gains access to Tesla's lost notebooks. In one of them, he finds the unpublished theory expounded in full.
In flashbacks, the reader learns that Johnson and his childhood friend and fellow researcher Miles Riley worked together for the US government on two military projects that exploit another of Tesla's theories: That electrical energy pervades the space between atoms. One project, called the St. George Array, is designed to extract the energy and use it as an antiballistic missile shield. The other, the T-suit, is a teleportation device for individual soldiers.
Johnson doesn't need Tesla's unified field theory to see that testing the St. George Array could result in a deadly, destructive disaster. And he perfects the T-suit by incorporating ideas that Albert Einstein described in the 1928 paper "New possibility for a unified field theory of gravitation and electricity." But Tesla's unified theory helps Johnson understand what the T-suit does: Transport its operator between parallel universes.
Johnson (as RASL) outlines Tesla's theory to a mysterious young girl and her companion after she draws a Venn-like diagram that also appears in Tesla's notebook:
"The 3-D world is created and powered by the interactions of the higher-dimensional clouds. [Tesla] wrote beneath it. 'All energy comes from outer dimensions and is pervasive throughout.'
"That overlaps with current string theory. Anywhere these clouds--or membranes--collide will create a new universe. Tesla discovered parallel universes.
"Ironically, he rejected them. He preferred to believe the higher dimensions were actually energy fields within the confines of our own universe."
RASL encompasses more than speculative theories and experimental devices. Smith weaves in the history of Tesla and his rivals, the Tunguska event, and the Philadelphia Experiment, in which the US Navy is alleged to have rendered one of its destroyers entirely invisible in 1943. The Pentagon's non-imaginary High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program also gets a mention.
The novel's plot is far richer than I've hinted at here. It unfolds like a film noir and contains such noirish staples as flashbacks, love affairs, betrayals, and bar-room fights. Jonhson's principal antagonist is a sinister agent from the Department of Homeland Security.
I won't disclose any more of the story lest you want to read the book yourself. But it's not giving too much away to say that in RASL the physical nature of the parallel universes is in dispute. Indeed, the dispute and its ramifications constitute a major source of dramatic tension.
Although RASL is a science-fiction thriller, it's not devoid of comedy--at least for physicists. Whether he meant to or not, Smith captures the disdain of physicists and engineers for the social sciences in this exchange between Johnson (as RASL) and Uma Giles, a museum curator whom he meets in a parallel universe:
RASL: Have you ever been interested in science?
UMA: Of course. I'm an anthropologist!
RASL: No, I mean physics. Or electricity.
This review first appeared on my blog, the Dayside [...]
That’s not shown until the end, so maybe me telling you that now is a spoiler. If that is true, I apologize. I don’t think so, because for me, that was just a throw-away line, but Smith uses it as the title of the book. I’m not sure what to make of RASL the concept, nor RASL the book.
I liked it, but that’s incredibly subjective. I read the whole thing pretty much in one sitting, so the story pulls you along.
There’s just that thing.
It’s not Bone.
I loved Bone. I wouldn’t have read this if it were not for the author’s previous work, but had I read it in a universe where Bone did not exist I might be judging it differently. Fortunately, I don’t live in that universe. I made all my friends read Bone. I don’t think I’ll do that with RASL.
And that’s a shame for Smith, because that is going to be the point of comparison for this book, until he tops it. I’m glad that this is so different in a way. It shows that Smith is a powerful creative artist who can switch genres easily, even if that switch is from fantasy to science fiction. He’s awesome, he created Bone. And RASL.
So here’s the bottom line. Read this book if you like science fiction, with a heavy dose of Tesla thrown in. There is a good melding of the actual past with the possibilities that we search for in the lab and in our imaginations. The characters are interesting and the work is nicely self-contained. If you were hoping for Bone II, this is not it.
There’s no rat creatures. Stupid, stupid, rat creatures.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like many of you, I'm a huge fan of the Bone series. After reading some reviews, I knew that this book would be nothing like Bone and...Read more