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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
8


TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 May 2016
This is a good novel, and should be of interest to fans of Superman. It deals with the final period in the history of the planet Krypton, leading up to the destruction of that world. It's written by Kevin Anderson, who's a competent sci-fi author. What he's done here is draw on a vast array of materials - i.e. sources that connect to the history of Krypton, published from 1938 onwards - and sought to integrate these so as to tell a detailed and comprehensive story.

The central plot revolves around, on the one hand, Jor-El (a leading Kryptonian scientist) and his wife, Lara; and, on the other hand, it concerns Zod - a bureaucrat and would-be-general who endeavours to conquer Krypton. As the story unfolds, Jor-El finds himself increasingly at odds with Zod - and, as civil war breaks out (leading to a despotic regime), the two become enemies. Ultimately, Jor-El realises that the planet Krypton is about to self-destruct - but no one heeds his warnings. As a final act of desperation, Jor-El and Lara place their infant son into a spacecraft - and send him to Earth - so that little Kal-El might live.

Of course, most people are aware of the basics of this story - as it's been dealt with in the movies. But Anderson seeks to draw on the history presented in the comics, and he makes use of various events and characters which - ordinarily - do not exist within a single narrative. And so, for example, we get to read about the ancient criminal Jax-Ur (who shattered a moon), about the tyrannical Brainiac (who captures the city of Kandor), about J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter (who calls out from dying Mars) ...

Bringing all of this together is certainly an achievement. Yet it does, on occasion, feel somewhat forced - as if the author decided that a particular 'fact' had to be included, but didn't adequately work out how to integrate it into the story. In consequence, at times the novel reads like a text-book - a description of the contents of certain comic books.

Yet, notwithstanding this limitation, the novel is still an entertaining read. It's a thorough exploration of the demise of this lost world. And many features of the story are exciting (such as what the Phantom Zone is like). It was a delight to read about Jor-El and Zod - two characters who often receive too little attention. Here, such characters come to life. And so I'm glad I read this book.

If you read it and find yourself enjoying it, I recommend "Enemies and Allies" (about Batman and Superman) by the same author.
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on 9 August 2013
Being an avid fan of Superman from the middle 50's I always wanted to know his beginnings. One of the early comics had Superman travel to Krypton through time in a spaceship. As with most science fiction if you're a fan you just let your imagination run wild. This book allowed me to fill in my own gaps, I have enjoyed reading it in a very short space of time.
Well done Kevin............
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on 19 March 2016
Great read, a must for fans of Krypton and the origins of Braniac and Kandor
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on 27 April 2017
Great story its how it all started before superman came to earth,well worth the read.
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on 25 July 2012
This was a great read that kept you interested from the first page to the last. Even if you're not a Superman Fan this is still a book that you can enjoy. The author has put together a well thought out and entertaining story. And for the price, well how can you refuse...
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on 28 May 2013
Nice back story to the superman legend. A mix of politics, power and romance, not great but still an entertaining read .
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on 3 December 2007
I read this book over a 3 day period and overall found it interesting, quite exciting in places. Superman The Movie had a great influence on me as a child. I couldn't help but compare the film's portrayal of Krypton to Anderson's alternative. They are VERY different. It may be sacrilegious to say it - but I prefer the film's visual depiction of Krypton.

In the film, Krypton's Council are both noble and misguided. Their disagreement with Jor-El is based on scientific REASON. In Anderson's book there is such a chasm between the scientific genius and reasoning of Jor-El and the maddening stupidity of the council that I ended up not caring what happened to them.

I also had a problem with the amount of "screen time" given over to the Zod sub-plot. In fact the whole story hinges on Zod's turning to the dark side - unfortunate if, like me, you are not so interested in the evil trio.

Having said all that, Anderson, for the most part, does succeed in creating a doomed alien world rich in history, culture, science, and conflict. All the elements are there to bring Krypton alive on the page - and in a uniquely Anderson way.
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on 11 April 2009
You must have heard of Kevin J. Anderson. You must have! And if you haven't then `my god'! please cast your mind back to all those spin-off novels from popular film and TV franchises that you have seen cramming the shelves of your local Borders over the last ten or fifteen years. He has written Star Wars novels, X-Files novels and has even jumped on the coat-tails of Frank Herbert's son James, by co-writing the DUNE expanded universe novels - turning it into something virtually unrecognisable with a prose far removed from Frank Herbert's dense genius. Though Kevin J. Anderson has made a recent bid for originality with his own `Saga of the Seven Suns' series of 7 lengthy novels, this fellow is the biggest Hack this side of Alan Dean Foster, Timothy Zahn and S.D. Perry - three other notorious jobbing pulp writers with a series of unwanted movie novelizations on their extensive rap-sheets. Before Kevin gets the chance to bludgeon the DUNE franchise further with the inevitable Paul of Dune 2 and 3 - here he has turned his attention to the Superman franchise by delivering a...yes...a Hack novel detailing the events that took place on Superman's home planet before its demise and his subsequent despatch to the planet Earth.

This is actually a very good idea for a book. It is surprising that no-one else had thought of this idea before. I myself have been in the dark regarding all the famous character names and places that devotees of the comic book must know off by heart. Similar to the world described at the beginning of Prelude to Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, the race of people inhabiting the world of Krypton have lived a decadent, uninspired and boring existence purposefully cut-off from the rest of the cosmos after a near cataclysmic war long in their past. They have isolated themselves from any contact with any other race, Commissioner Zod's Commission for Technology Acceptance vetoing any invention from the young Jor-El that would threaten the ruling council's stagnant planetary leadership. Zod of course is devilishly ambitious, already displaying ruthless behaviour, bumping off various political opponents who pry too deeply into his black market dealings. Nam-Ek his mute right hand man usually the weapon of choice. Whilst attending a Phantom Menace style grand chariot race at Kandor City's great stadium he spies the very tom-boyish daughter of some decadently-robed nobles in the stand opposite. Her name? Aethyr of course! Impressed with her apparent disinterest in the festivities he tries to romance her, and is promptly dismissed with a verbal slap in the face!
Jor-El meanwhile lives in intellectual isolation on his estate surreptitiously developing one curious invention after another. A commissioned family of artists working on the estate are busy crafting various statues, sculptures and paintings. Lara, a talented young sketch artist, is amongst them. After rescuing Jor-El when he traps himself inside a `Phantom Zone' whilst trying to open a gateway to other dimensions, she becomes fast friends with the shy inventor and eventually they marry. The story also focuses on his brother Zor-El and his governorship of one of Krypton's main cities Argo City. Zor-El's interest in seismology and the volcanic activity of Krypton's increasingly unstable core is also a main feature, as both he and Jor-El try in vain to convince the stale Council that their planet may be doomed and that a planetary evacuation may be the only answer. Aethyr uncovers the ruins of a lost city whilst on a back-packing tour of a deserted part of the planet, and discovers a series of hidden doomsday missile silos - late of the infamous warlord Jax-Ur from generations ago - the man responsible for Krypton's near extinction in the distant past. Exploiting not only this discovery, but the destruction of Kandor City by the arrival of The Brain Interactive Construct (labelled Brainiac), Commissioner Zod begins a concerted attempt the seize power under the guise of a benign but decisive leader promising to protect the planet from future alien attacks. Having defended Jor-El during a recent court case when a friendly alien visitor Donodon was killed secretly by Zod, the Commissioner holds the young scientist under his sway. Jor-El's innovative skill with inventing planetary protective devices (Seismic drills, lasers et al) enable Zod to remove most of his opponents before going to war with the few cities that still stand against him. The whole time all parties, bar Jor-El, Zor-El and Lara, remain either oblivious to Krypton's imminent demise or simply non-believing. The novel finishes with the blast-off of the sole remaining survivor of Krypton in a small space pod constructed from Jor-El's remarkable crystal technology. The legend coming full circle as Kal-El begins his journey to Earth. A baby inside a crystal-studded life-pod.

Kevin J. Anderson's writing does just about pass mustard with his latest tome. He certainly knows how to pack the detailed series of unfortunate events into a crammed 463 pages. The font is thankfully smaller; enabling those adults amongst us to be spared another double-line spaced Hardback from Anderson's stable. He clearly has a detailed grasp of his source material and presents popular items from Superman's story with a slightly new slant: The Fortress of Solitude makes an appearance, known as `The Palace of Solitude', as Jor-El's and Lara's honeymoon destination. `The Phantom Zone' of course appears as the punishment of purgatory when Zod, Nam-Ek and Aethyr are sentenced. And the presence of Kryptonite is featured as an unwelcome emerald element streaking through the lava flows of the planet's mountainous regions, spotted by Zor-El during one of his seismic study trips. Yet despite the effort the novel excites no more than one of his Dune Spin-offs. His indistinct style and workman-like prose could be found anywhere is any workaday paperback littering Border's bookshelves: basically anything involving spaceships, laser weapons, aliens and warfare. The story just does not FEEL like the universe it is supposed to inhabit. The only indication that it is a prequel to Superman appears in the form of chapter break symbols in the style of the `S' on Jor-El's robes. The crest that will become Superman's symbol is presented here as the El family crest. Nevertheless it is a satisfactory read. I handed over my money after all! Perhaps it was the holographic lenticular cover that drew me in. My copy came equipped with a green Superman `S' logo blasting out of the front cover! Perhaps Kevin J. Anderson's writing in his Seven Suns saga is much better. Surely with his own invention he may deliver something unique. But unless he stops being the Hack that he and his cohorts have been working as for years, all you'll be left with is a series of seemingly endless unwanted pulp sci-fi paperback rubbish.
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