Long story here: I was looking at the return cart (next to my desk) on Wednesday as I needed to stop looking at the computer screen and thought I would see (sadly) what we were sending back to publishers. I found a funky (not necessarily good funky) cover: A frog-faced creature starred at me. Oh, heck, does not hurt to look, eh? And saw that it was a three-book series and a graphic novel. I could get my illustrated book or series first. Then I noticed it was a Will Eisner winner. I am not as familiar with that award as I probably should be; but when talking to our in-house graphic novel expert, he said that the Eisner is the award for graphic novels. On Wednesday night I had finished book one of RASL: The Drift by Jeff Smith. Hold onto your hat’s boys and girls, yes that Jeff Smith: Bones author and illustrator. On Thursday, July 4th, I finished up a load of laundry and headed into town, so I could pick up books two and three before they were returned. Plus, I could not wait until Friday when I was back at work to finish the series as book one ends on a, “What in Sam Houston was that all about?”
The story: The Drift is a beautiful, ugly, mixed-up mess. It is science-fiction mixed with realism and made into one mad trip down the rabbit hole. Rasl (Robert) is a scientist who has figured out Tesla was right. You can harness the energy of the universe and do amazingly wonderful and horrific things. Book one covers the introduction of Rasl’s adventures trying to protect himself from, Sal (cue frog-faced gentleman) and trying to survive “Drifting” (the jumping into parallel worlds). He is the quintessential anti-hero. By book two, RASL: Romance at the Speed of Light (yes, RASL, and that is important to the story), we see how much of a not hero our boy is. Or is he a hero? Nothing is black and white. Nothing is clear. Is Rasl a “good guy” or is he as bad as his friends from the project the military was working on? What they have found could be the cure to man’s worries, or what will destroy them. After all, they are making the ultimate multi-universal weapon. On your journey you will meet a hooker with a heart of gold (or at least cash). You will meet a woman who Rasl loves so much he will tattoo her name onto his arm (hopefully her husband (his best friend) does not find out). You will meet The President (a hustler, drifter, psychic, crazy-as-a-loon). You will meet God (a dirty, ragged dressed, wide-eyed, wider-mouth, girl-child). And you will meet a cast of characters that made me think, “As Dorothy said to Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”
Book Three: Of course, picnics, an hour nap and fireworks got in the way of book three, RASL: The Fire of St. George. Yet, I am including it and hopefully there is a satisfactory ending to this mad mad world Smith took me into. These three books have been made up of the smaller books and their covers are in the back of the books. The illustrations are something to be desired. There are some amazing colors and lack of colors. They are beautiful and made me nauseous. Several times we see Rasl bloody (he bleeds, a lot!), beaten, dirty, cut up. We see his chiseled body. (Is it weird that Rasl is hot?) We see Annie’s (the hooker) soft, skin. Her curves sensual. At least twice we see the typical fantasy woman, breast peaking-out-from-the-robe, but nothing is seen. We see Maya (the lover) on top of Rasl, in the most sexual and provocative pose. The girl-child’s slack-jawed emptiness. Native American mythology and science overlap. The world of Tesla comes to life. There is everything going on at once.
While teens could read this, I would not hand to anyone under aged 14-15. This depends on your reader because of mature images and themes.
I came away from book one nauseous and fevered for more. Book two was not as strong but did not disappoint. Book three has me scared out of my mind. HOW will Smith wrap this up? Only time will tell.