Tuesday, June 20, 2017

One Trick Pony

One Trick Pony is a great scifi story about a planet Earth overrun by aliens called Pipers who have literally consumed all the technology they could and killed most of humanity. The people left have returned to a brutal, desperate way of life reminiscent of the Stone Age (not the happy kind like the Flintstones had). The survivors have to struggle to survive the elements, the Pipers, and each other. Many of them have turned into bands of folk called Ferals, so named for their ferocious treatment of any outsiders.

The main story here follows a young woman named Strata who has happened upon a robot horse named Kleidi in an abandoned cave. Somehow drawn to it, she refuses to leave it behind even though it is a magnet for alien attention. Still, it comes in handy when the Pipers do arrive, because not only is it fast enough to escape them, it also accepts commands that help it fight off the seemingly invincible aliens. Strata's harrowing journey drags in a couple of her compatriots as well as a fugitive from the Ferals as they try to stay ahead of the advancing Pipers. Together, they cross lots of terrain and also delve into the mysterious origins and actions of the Pipers themselves.
The aliens are called Pipers because of the sounds they make as they float about and blow toxic bubbles that swallow up technology and maim any living thing in their path. One of the survivors makes a link between their name and the legend of the Pied Piper, which gives the whole enterprise a mythic feel. Overall, I was very satisfied with this book. The artwork is exciting and gorgeous to behold. And the story features a mix of science fiction, action, character development, humor, and existentialism. The book ended in a pretty open-ended manner, too, and I would be very happy to see a sequel to find out what sorts out from the aftermath here.

This book's creator is the prolific Nathan Hale, one of my favorite comics creators, and I am not shocked that he was able to pull off combining as many elements in this book as he has. He is a masterful comics artist, best known (and celebrated) for his nonfiction series of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, which I practically consider required reading if you like graphic novels and/or US history. He also has drawn two other graphic novels, Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack. He has also worked on a variety of children's books, including Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody and The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas.

All the reviews of this book I have read sing its praises. Publishers Weekly concluded, "Hale gives his post-apocalyptic scenario special sauce, and readers will hope for more." Elizabeth Bird explained, "Even if you’ve never cared for science fiction, and even if aliens normally bore you to tears, you’ll find something to love about this book." Kirkus Reviews summed up, "Hale blends adventure, aliens, an apocalyptic future, and folklore into an easy-to-read stand-alone"

One Trick Pony was published by Amulet Books, and they have a preview and more available here.

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