Murphy’s Law says: Freak out today that my son will miss out on great literature when he refuses to read anything but graphic novels… tomorrow Kidlit Exchange and Scholastic will give me a review copy of Stanislaw Lem’s THE SEVENTH VOYAGE (translated by Michael Kandel and adapted to graphic novel by Jon J Muth).
The late Stainslaw Lem, new to me until now, was a Polish comedy sci-fi writer with a probably-deserved cult following around his recurring character Ijon Tichy (EE-Yon TEE-khee; the pronunciation is helpfully provided on the dedication page), a well-meaning but dim-witted astronaut.
And yes, that is a link to Ijon’s Wikpedia page above. If THE SEVENTH VOYAGE is any indication, Ijon’s stories were graphic novels waiting to happen. Fortunately, Jon J Muth had the talent and connections to make that happen.
Ijon narrates the story, but the reader knows Muth is the security “camera” drawbot recording it. According to the prologue, cameras will be outlawed in about 100 years due to execssive stupid behavior on Instagram and Snapchat.
Oh, yeah, the story? Due to a mechanical failure on his spaceship that would need two people to fix, solo astronaut Ijon Tichy finds himself caught in a time loop with various iterations of his tomorrow and yesterday selves on board. The duplicate Ijons could mean problem solved, but that would make for a pretty boring story.
Instead, every day the Saturday Ijon is smacking the Sundy Ijon in the face with a frying pan and eating all the chocolate (while Narrator Ijon moves through the week-long process). Then the time loop destabilizes, filling the spaceship with hundreds of Ijons at various ages.
Spoiler: While the adult Ijons are soapboxing about structure and rules, two little-boy Ijons quietly solve the problem and get the single Ijon safely on his way.
- While the complexity of the drawings warrants it (Muth’s style is more watercolor than the clean lines and bright colors of most graphic novels), this book was the size of a larger picture book, which from a tactile standpoint took some getting used to.*
- This is a short story written for adults – to be very clear no adult content – and adapted for children, and it shows in the complex language and heavy comedic irony. In other words, this is not one of those graphic novels that you give to reluctant readers.**
- While it becomes hilarious in retrospect, the book starts with a heavy prologue that I (a nascent Tichyologist) found a bit disorientating at first glance.
- This was a brainy, funny story.
- The backmatter contains photos of the figural models Muth used, a just-detailed-enough sneak peek behind the scenes of his adaptation process, and a brief bio of Stanislaw Lem’s work as a political and social force. All packaged in a fun-looking graphic novel with fistfights, butts, and a rocketship on the cover. (evil chuckle)
- Tichy’s voice reads like listening to that psuedo-intellectual and irritatingly magniloquent, but strangely likeable emo kid from the back of your English class.
- There are many more Tichy stories available, (and in Audible, yay!) and this book is a great gateway to classic sci-fi authors.
Stanislaw Lem’s THE SEVENTH VOYAGE releases October 1, 2019 from Graphix/Scholastic books.
*Did I say I wasn’t weird?
** That is, my zero formal training in childhood education and I would not give it to a relucant reader.