Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rust: Death of the Rocket Boy, by Royden Lepp

All right, all right, so this one's technically dieselpunk, but I like to think that dieselpunk and steampunk are related as genres! Anyway, so I finally got around to the third volume of the series Rust, this one titled Death of the Rocket Boy. Apparently this book had actually come out a year ago and I had not been aware of this fact for some time. Anyway according to the blurb on the back of this book, Death of the Rocket Boy is the penultimate book in this series, meaning that we have only one book left in this series to go. (Whenever that one will come out.)

To recap, the story takes place on the Taylor family farm where oldest brother Roman works to try and keep things running for his family. Roman believes that if he can repair and reprogram some robots leftover from the war, he can really get the farm where it should be economically. The sudden arrival of Jet Jones on his farm shakes things up a little bit, and begins to reveal that some of these robots may not be as benign as Roman thinks they are.

Death of Rocket Boy has two main roles in the story of Rust, at least as far as I can tell. First, it finishes off all the loose ends I think we're going to have revealed to us in this story. We know quite a bit about Jet's backstory, as well as the secrets of the technology that won the war. Obviously not every question I could possibly posit is going to be answered. We're probably never going to learn what started this war, how long it lasted, and such, but it seems like everything Lepp wanted to reveal within this story has been revealed so far. Of course, some of these are questions which I'd like to have answered, goddamnit, but it doesn't mean the story is deficient without that information.

The other main role of this book is that it has taken us to our lowest point within the story, creating dramatic tension that has to be resolved in the final book. The first book established the characters and setting, as well as establishing the conflict for the rest of the story. The second book expands the conflict, which continues into the third book. By the end of the third book the story has reached its lowest point, with all of our characters being in very bad situations. As such I can't really say whether this story's been good or bad because it still has to have its denouement which will hopefully come in the final book.

My main concern with this story, though, is that it's been very, very bare bones. There's a handful of characters like Roman, his brother Oswald, Jet, and the girl next door, Jesse, but I don't feel any particular attachment to those characters. Most of the narrative has been told through the perspective of Roman and his letters to his father. So I feel like I know Roman the most as a character, but I still don't feel any strong attachment to him. And these are pretty long for graphic novels. They're close to two hundred pages each, but a lot of that has been action sequences or characters acting without dialogue. Granted, there are ways to tell stories without dialogue, but there's just so little to work with that it's unsatisfying to say the least.

And really, this has the potential to be a great story. Especially because it sort of brings up the question of if machines can become human, which has always been one of my favorite sorts of stories. (I have a fondness in my heart for the short story Bicentennial Man. Not the movie, though. That's just garbage.) But the story's just been so sparse that it feels like the skeleton or basic outline of a story. It feels like it needed more. I'll see what the last book brings, and hopefully there's at least a satisfactory conclusion.

- Kalpar

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