Welcome to “Read This, Read That,” where I invite friends, bloggers, and bibliophiles of all sorts to share some of their favorite books or writing with Mode and the Like. From novels and poems to cookbooks and art tomes, you’ll find here a diverse selection of recommended reading in this monthly feature.
Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
recommended by Lisa
At its core, Saga is that age-old Romeo and Juliet story: two people from opposing sides of a conflict fall in love. Unlike Shakespeare’s version, however, Saga follows the couple through their ongoing struggle to be together in a warring universe—and raise their child.
This comic series is the perfect example of ideal science fiction. It explores the human condition using a fanaticized setting to underscore the points it’s making. This is no shitty pulp fantasy novel. Set in a futuristic fantasy world, not a single aesthetic decision is superfluous, and all of the conventions work on two levels (for example, the robot people are called “bluebloods,” both because of the color of their blood and their standing in society).
The series starts in the middle of a war between the winged people of Landfall and the horned people of Wreath, Landfall’s moon. Alana and Marko, our main protagonists (though far from our only storyline) have had a child, one that neither side is terribly enthusiastic about. We follow them through their ups and downs, their triumphs and defeats. And yet, as we find out more about satellite characters, we can’t help but root for them, too—which can be confusing when their interests go against Alana and Marko’s. This is truly a story with no antagonist.
The plot is compelling and the world creation thoughtful, yet for me it is indeed the characters that put this series head and shoulders above much of the sci-fi/fantasy out today. Saga has one of the most diverse casts I have ever seen, and my heart goes out to characters on both sides of the conflict equally. Alana is the ultimate “strong female character,” including her flaws and three-dimensionality, and at one point is the provider for her little family. The journalists investigating the rumors of a mixed child are a gay couple, and the bounty hunters are an equivocally badass crew regardless of gender or age. And all of these characters feel truly human. There are no stereotypes in Saga, no crude caricatures meant to fulfill some quota. Just people trying to find their way in a messed up world, and really, is that so fantastical?
Lisa Ellis is studying Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. She spends her time making up names for hypothetical pets and blogging about her ongoing struggle to keep herself not starving.
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