The Little Death of Reality: Alt-Life

Alt-Life by Thomas Cadène

Published: October 17th, 2018
Publisher: Europe Comics
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Format: ebook
Length: 184 pages

Alt-Life is the story of what happens when two horny French people volunteer as beta testers for an all-encompassing VR experience that lets them escape from the polluted, dying Earth. Once you’re inside the VR devices, which look like giant red eggs full of undulating cilia, the system integrates with your body and you live out the rest of your life on the inside.

For the first year they’re inside the devices, Josiane and René are alone in an infinite world, testing out the system so that the rest of humanity can join them when it’s ready. They explore its limits and discover that there aren’t any as long as your device has enough memory. They also explore every possible sexual fantasy. Josiane sinks into endless hedonism, but René quickly becomes disillusioned with the lack of substance in his imagined encounters and loses his sex drive.

This, then, is where more existential questions come into play. If you can have anything you imagine with the snap of your fingers, does any of it have meaning or value? What does it mean to be rich or powerful in a virtual world? The arrival of other humans in the virtual world brings even more complications because, by that time, Josiane and René have changed in immeasurable ways.

While René and Josiane are inside their virtual world, we also get glimpses of the world outside. It’s obvious that the Earth has become inhabitable, presumably due to some kind of environmental catastrophe (sound familiar?) and humanity has created these bizarre organic VR devices as a way to preserve themselves in some form, even if that means living out the rest of their lives in an imaginary world.

From reading some of the other reviews of this book, it seems like the wall-to-wall sex was a bit much for some readers, but Alt-Life is about more than just sex. Instead, the author explores the nature of humanity and what it could mean to give up on “real life” and retreat into a virtual refuge. It just happens to be a particularly horny refuge.

I especially enjoyed the art style. At first, everything is minimalist, all solid colors and simple lines, but once Josiane and René start letting loose and playing with their abilities, there are huge panels full of bright colors and meticulous detail. It’s a beautiful book. My only criticism is that the dialog is lettered in a tight cursive, which makes it difficult to read.

REALLY LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

Purchase at: Comixology

Infinitely French: Infinity 8, Volume 1

Infinity 8, Volume 1: Love and Mummies

Written by: Lewis Trondheim (Zep)
Illustrations by: Dominique Bertail

Published: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Lion Forge Comics
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Format: Digital
Length: 105 pages

If I didn’t already know that Infinity 8 is a French comic, reading it would make that crystal clear. It has a French feel about it, from the art reminiscent of Moebius, to the laconic dialogue scenes, to (most tellingly) the glimpse of casual nudity and the protagonist who wears a skin-tight spacesuit straight out of 1950s pinup illustrations.

It isn’t a very complex book, but I did enjoy it well enough. The main character, Yoko Keren, is an agent tasked with saving everyone on her ship from certain catastrophe. The captain of her ship is a massive alien who can roll back time eight hours to give them another chance to survive, but it needs her help to know what to expect. This means that Keren can fail up to a certain point, but she has to prevent the ship and captain from being destroyed before they can roll back time.

When Keren goes outside the ship to investigate an anomaly, she discovers a debris field full of dead bodies – a veritable floating space necropolis. Shortly thereafter, she is followed outside by a species of aliens who can’t resist eating the dead, and hijinks ensue. This mostly involves dead things exploding in chunks of gore and aliens chasing her because they want to kill and eat her. She handles all of this with aplomb and never seems particularly ruffled, even when coated with blood and gore or fending off the attentions of an amorous alien.

For some reason Keren is also obsessed with having a baby, constantly scanning everyone around her for their genetic suitability. Mostly this involves scanning aliens and telling them that they wouldn’t work. It’s a very odd detail to include.

I think mostly I enjoyed the art style and the deadpan conversations Keren has with the aliens she meets in space in the middle of a field of corpses. It’s all so very macabre and charming.

The series does continue after this volume, but it feels like it could wrap up here. This volume reads like a fairly self-contained story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would be interested in reading the rest of the series.

LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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