Clocking in at 96 pages, HABITAT is the sci-fi graphic novel that answers the question “What could happen if thousands of people on board a spacecraft were left to their own devices for too long a period of time?”
Readers meet the tale’s protagonist right away (Cho;) a new recruit of the Habitat Security force (“HabSec”.) Until recently, Cho was a civilian (“civvie”,) but nothing could have prepared Cho for what happens next. After a rite of passage and a subsequent breaking of the rules, Cho discovers a long-lost technology which perhaps ought to have remained forgotten. Once opened, there’s just no putting this proverbial genie back into the bottle.
What sets HABITAT apart from other sci-fi graphic lit, you ask? Plenty.
With a government that’s fallen apart (and with no singular ruling class) on board the Euhumanist vessel Soleri, this far-flung society has devolved to four factions: Civilian, Engineer, Medical, and Security. With each faction struggling to survive, it soon becomes all too clear that each faction relies heavily on the remaining three factions, even in the midst of a power struggle. In this sense, HABITAT has the distinction of also being a case study of deteriorating societal interdependence.
HABITAT‘s creator Simon Roy never shows us the Soleri’s exterior. That’s a real departure from most sci-fi that happens in outer space. This is both a welcome change and unexpectedly refreshing; allowing the readers’ imagination to do some of the heavy lifting (a “muscle” everyone ought to exercise a bit more,) whilst adding even more mystique to HABITAT.
Cannibalism and violence both rear their ugly heads here, making HABITAT a graphic novel for adults only. Even so, there isn’t nearly as much bloodshed as one might expect to see (knowing of the cannibalism and the violence beforehand.)
Carrion gulls briefly appear in HABITAT; hardly a hackneyed sci-fi trope, that. Avians on board a space station aren’t new (see LEVIATHAN WAKES,) but Simon’s flock of carrion gulls sure does feel fresh (even if said creatures don’t exactly smell fresh.)
Simon is in fine form, and he does it all; the writing, artwork, and lettering. Fans of his illustration style will have numerous art pieces to admire and mull over (especially the opening and closing splash pages.) Fans of the writing craft will enjoy HABITAT‘s depth, foreshadowing, pacing, and symbolism. Pacing is HABITAT‘s strong suit. Simon knows when and where to have this action-packed tale come up for air before hitting the ground running again. When a tale’s pacing hits all the right notes, like HABITAT‘s does, an enjoyable story becomes a memorable story, resonating with readers for days afterwards.
Certain HABITAT characters exist for only the briefest of moments, and yet each serves to propel the story forward in important ways (even young Yesu, who looks up to Cho like a brother, and harbors a fascination with catching a glimpse of something known only as “the Great Builder.”) From a writing standpoint, Simon squanders nothing. Sub-plots develop, only to simmer down a page or two later, before the story ever gets a chance to be its own downfall. Simon refrains from needlessly muddying the waters, by keeping the story moving, on-point, and taut as an aerial tramway cable.
As for what transpires during HABITAT‘s final ten pages? It will have readers gasping for air.
Simon’s developmental sketches and accompanying notes can be found in the back of the graphic novel, and it’s a nice touch. The process is a sight to behold (particularly the robots and robo-nuns.) It’s easy to see why John Arcudi and Warren Ellis have praised HABITAT.
Highly recommended for mature readers in search of an action-packed, borderline-controversial, self-contained, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller.