Review by Doroteja Balaban
“Short Tales From Earth’s Final Chapter: Book 2” was a charming and fairly immersive read. All of the stories have accomplished something very important: they can be followed, felt, and enjoyed without much to any background knowledge about their respective worlds. I’m a first-time reader of the series, stumbled upon Book 2 before Book 1, and I was happy to discover that I don’t need to be familiar with all the previous titles and lore to get the gist of it. That’s a huge plus and actually makes me want to go back and read everything else too, just to satiate my curiosity.
Why is Japan in The Sea Dragon an underwater country, why does no-one want to leave the domes anymore, and why was Kyo a better leader than Ryuu? Who or what is the PC that drives Jarith’s group to dive into a nefarious black market for bare survival, and how did people end up living in bunkers scattered across a jungle anyway? What exactly was the contorted web of vengeance that resulted in the tangled Family Ties? And what about the Grease? Will it really help Tif enact social change, or will she end up sucked into the slippery world of the corrupted elite? Someone who is more familiar with “Earth’s Final Chapter” than me probably already has some or all of those answers. I’m looking forward to discovering them for myself.
These stories are promising. All of the authors succeeded in creating narratives that have passion and heart, and this basic life of it is what makes the reading worth the while. The setting and scenery in each tale is brought to life with vivid descriptions, and the landscapes actually make up the smallest percentage of that. It’s the moods and shifting atmospheres between the characters that really color each page. It was especially easy to feel the bristling intolerance and ambition in The Sea Dragon, the air of fear and apprehension in Family Ties, and the feverish anticipation and hunger for thrill of the audience in The Grease Games.
Each character is distinct and relatable – not just the protagonists, nor just the antagonists. Supporting characters who don’t seem to play much of a role in these particular pieces still give off the feeling of carrying much more weight in the stories’ worlds overall. It’s quite easy to see the overly zealous soldier Hikari as being a major saboteur in a later arc of The Sea Dragon, or MC Rob being an unscrupulous instigator just for amusement, or Reggie being a shadowy mastermind behind that amiable awkward grin. By the same token, there is definitely more to old Lucas than just shrewd business sense, and the imposing Duster might be a surprisingly upstanding guy in his own way.
The illustrators, for their part, did an excellent job. The accompanying images bring each story to a whole different dimension. Staple motifs like a high-tech city or a dystopian wasteland contrast with well-timed elements of universal folklore and simple pastoral scenery. I especially like the consideration that went into selecting the color palettes for key illustrations, such as for the dragon Fatal, for Duster & Co. leaving Tabbot’s Tack-Shop, for MC Rob enthralling the crowd, etc. If you stop for a more careful look, you’ll find plenty of foreshadowing and little hints throughout.
All in all, I rather enjoyed “Short Tales From Earth’s Final Chapter: Book 2”. It’s been a while since I read anything illustrated, so that was a breath of fresh air, and each of these little worlds offers some food for thought and feeling. Cheers to the minds that created them; I’m certainly glad to have found this.