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a thorough exploration of the demise of Krypton
on 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.