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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 1 year, 6 months ago

1 September 2019 THE SEVENTH VOYAGE by Stanislaw Lem and Jon J. Muth, ill., Scholastic Graphix, October 2019, 80p., ISBN: 978-0-545-00462-6


“I was already six minutes younger than Mark but, as Einstein predicted, I’ve come back six minutes and 13 miliseconds younger after a year in space.”

-- Astronaut Scott Kelly, twin brother of Mark Kelly, quoted in The Guardian, October 29, 2017


“Maybe you wonder where you are

I don’t care

Here is where time is on our side

Take you there, take you there”

-- Talking Heads, “Road to Nowhere” (1985)


“In the 1960s a world-wide array of seismometers were installed to monitor nuclear testing, and these instruments revealed a startling geological phenomenon. It showed that earthquakes, volcanoes, and other active geologic features for the most part aligned along distinct belts around the world, and those belts defined the edges of tectonic plates.” 


I’ve never studied physics, no less astrophysics. I was in high school and Boy Scouts during the first Earth Day, and it felt far more relevant, when subsequently faced with the choice, to study Earth science instead of physics. It meant that I was among the first high school students to be taught plate tectonics as fact. 


But it also means that I know next to nothing about Einstein’s theories, including relativity and the space-time continuum. All I have to go on is the ancient memory of a filmstrip shown by my third-grade teacher which explained that a twin who spent years in space would come home noticeably younger than his twin back on Earth. (“His” twin, because in 1963, women were considered unsuitable for the dangers and rigour of space travel.) 


Given my lack of a grounding in physics, I have to take on faith the underlying scientific theory that leads to a spaceship that begins filling up with duplicates of space traveler Ijon Tichys in Jon J. Muth’s laugh-aloud graphic novel-style adaptation of a story by the late Polish sci-fi/satire author Stanislaw Lem.


Ijon Tichys has been barreling through space for two years when a lima-bean sized meteoroid shatters his drive regulator and part of his ship’s rudder. When Ijon suits up and leaves the capsule, intending to repair the damage, he is unsuccessful. He needs a second person on the other side of the rudder to assist in tightening the bolts. 


Then, as his ship enters a stellar wilderness containing gravitational vortices, he is suddenly confronted with himself -- himself from yesterday and, sometimes, himself from tomorrow.


“The cosmonautical almanac warned of them, in view of the incalculable relativistic effects that passage through a vortex could bring about -- particularly when traveling at high velocities.”


Once you accept the underlying science, this becomes a hysterically funny tale of a little spaceship filling up with more and more duplicates of the same person. The duplicates of Ijon Tichys argue and fight with one another. A particular duplicate sometimes goes from observing what happens one day to being the one to make it happen the next day. Trust me. It’s as zany and as much fun as the crowded cabin scene in The Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera. But here, every one of the multitudes of characters is a different temporal version of the same person. 


Why is it such a challenge for the duplicates to team up and repair the spacecraft? Because there is only one spacesuit! But, eventually, two of the duplicates succeed in solving the seemingly unsolvable puzzle. The vortices and duplicates are then left behind, and Ijon Tichys makes it safely back to Earth. Where, of course, nobody believes his story.


But we know every word of it is true. 


THE SEVENTH VOYAGE is a notably envisioned and realized tale that elevates artist Jon Muth to a new level.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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