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Robota Hardcover – August 1, 2003
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This is not an ordinary sf novel, nor a graphic novel, nor a conventional illustrated novel. Chiang, design director for the most recent Star Wars films, paints like a scion of N. C. Wyeth, Vincent Di Fate, Maxfield Parrish, and Arthur Rackham. Muscular heroes and monsters, dramatic angles and deep foci, glowing color, and wraithlike figures of malevolence are everywhere in his visual complements to a story that he invented and then asked Card, one of the best and most honored contemporary sf and fantasy authors, to write down. That story--of a world that alien robots, once allies of the planet's human natives, are striving to purge of all carbon-based life, only to be thwarted by a "reborn" human champion--resembles the Star Wars saga in being a myth of restoration, of getting an old dream (liberty and cooperation?) back on track. Also like Star Wars, it succeeds by being neat looking more than interesting. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Doug Chiang has received an Academy Award, two British Academy Awards, a Clio Award for his work in film and television, and the Prix du Rendu at the 2003 Imagina CG Film Festival for his Robota teaser. A veteran of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic, he served as design director for the Star Wars prequels. His paintings are exhibited nationally and in a variety of publications, including limited edition prints. He lives in Northern California. Read an interview with Doug Chiang!
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As far as the writing of the book is concerned, I am not familiar with Mr. Card's other writings, but I found his writing style to be often abrupt, almost as if trying to rush to tell the story. Some key aspects of the story were not given enough time to develop, sometimes spending little more than a paragraph to transition important parts of the story. Lastly, the end of the story is, well, very disappointing in my opinion (I forced myself to read the whole book).
If you are a fan of conceptual art in general or of Mr. Chiang's artwork, you might find some of the imagery appealing, but beyond that the book is not worth the list price of $35. If you are curious about the book, buy a used copy.
I'd give the imagery a B+. However, there's not enough of it either, which adds to my disappointment. It's too bad this expensive hardcover wasn't more of a softcover graphic novel. More pictures would have made it more satisfying.
I realize I'm being somewhat unfair. I didn't bother reading it. I'm not going to. I don't care enough and find the overall presentation a bit dull. And the retail price, I think, is absurd for what you get.
It has beautiful and interesting artwork by Doug Chiang, who was the Design Director for Star Wars I and II. He's also been involved in the look of The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
The text is reminiscent to me, in parts, of a Ray Bradbury feel. Think "The Martian Chronicles." The combination of sci fi and mysticism, just a bit. It has friendship, collaboration, conflict. It has heroes. It has dark times and times of light, not unlike Star Wars, though it is its own story.
But this book is ***truly about the art.*** It's great in that respect. I was loaned an ebook edition through Netgalley for an honest review. I think you should consider the hard back book edition if you're interested. It's almost a coffee table book, in the very best sense.
Four stars. As I said, I received an ebook version from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
None of the art in Robota is from Chiang's Star Wars work. The similarities in style are unmistakable; at times you might think, "Did I see that in The Phantom Menace? The story takes place on the planet Robota, which was developed by a robot race before conflict with the humans led society into disarray. Now the robots hunt humans and animals, and enhanced, sentient animals work with the humans.
Card's story is decent, but is really second-rate, compared to his major works and compared to the first-rate illustrations. My recommendation is to soak in the art, but don't worry about the story.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!