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Outer States. By Enki Bilal. Translated by Elizabeth Bell. New York: Catalan Communications, 1990. 48p. $9.95. ISBN 0-87416-085-5.

Science fiction

Adults, teens; some nudity, violence, language

This book contains eight short pieces by Bilal. According to the back cover, "Bilal transports the current Western CONTENT system into a distant future of intergalactic travel, routine contact with aliens, and ubiquitous robots." The stories range from a two-pager about a man in a future confessional to an eight-pager about how the human (specifically French) military makes use of aliens who are near-supermen but completely pacific in outlook. Common themes include incompetent civilian and military leadership, humans with robotic parts and robots with human parts, and the strange effects of unexplored planets.

I have read a lot of science fiction short stories in my life, and the ones in this book are for the most part inferior. Some end badly; others are not explained well enough to be satisfying. Why, for example, does a space biker encounter endless copies of himself on an unexplored planet? Nothing in the story suggests the mechanism that started this copying. Some defy logic: if the entire population of a town vanished, but a mysterious alien organism remained, would you immediately decide that the organism wasn't responsible? It appears that Bilal had some good ideas but wasn't quite up to executing them as full stories. Another problem is the fault of whoever recolored certain spots after translation; the French words bleed through in several places. On the other hand, the full-color art is detailed and attractive. Bilal's lowlifes are especially grungy-looking, and some of his aliens are wonderful creations, such as the naked blue humanoid girl with the Mickey Mouse ears and the symbiotic slug on her shoulder. And a few of the stories are pretty good.

Overall, I wouldn't rush out and buy this, but Bilal fans will enjoy it, and it has a minor place in collections of SF graphic novels.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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