Review by Karl Verhoven
The reason for the Survivors title is that a group of human teenagers encountered a spatial anomaly that eventually led to their being deposited on a world inhabited by small colonies of dozens of alien races, all of whom have been similarly stranded. The title, therefore, could have a broader application that first assumed. Another inconvenience is that the world is subject to strange meteorological conditions, some of which are associated with a marine life form, and some of which can propel people through time. Four of the original human cast have moved forward six years, and Episode 3 concluded with a pair of them wondering if this had occurred again.
That answer’s not long in coming, yet in terms of this story utterly pointless except in providing a surprise midway through the book. While it has a greater (although questionable) purpose overall, in the circumstances it appears cheap manipulation. That’s because Leo is an incredibly frustrating writer. Some of his ideas are fantastic, but he lacks the ability to focus them to best effect and his pacing is woeful. We’re now four books into the series and the fundamentals were revealed by the middle of the second book. It’s beginning to seem as if there is no bigger picture, just that Alex and Marie will face one threat after another. The Survivors now has the feel of the old British boys adventure comic serial where the object was to lure the reader back every week with a cliffhanger ending, resolving it quickly the following week and filling the space to the next cliffhanger with a brief adventure. The difference is that the British writers of the 1960s and 1970s managed this in three pages.
As with the previous book, events that are completely inexplicable occur unless Leo’s Aldebaran trilogy has been read. Otherwise good luck in figuring out what Alex and Marie ingest at sea, as Leo provides no explanation until the following book.
If there’s a saving grace it’s Leo’s art. He’s very good at drawing the character moments (if not always as convincing in writing them), giving the cast a naturalistic feel, and continues to incorporate intriguing composite creatures, such as the sea ape on the sample page. It’s also apparent on the cover with the strange water creature (that Aldebaran readers know to be a Mantris). Leo’s covers are great representations of his art. In the European tradition established by Hergé, it’s not always the most dramatic moment selected for the cover illustration, and a peaceful image that raises questions works equally well.
All in all, this is a frustrating episode. Taking into consideration what follows in Episode 5 there was a need to move the plot in a certain directions, but it’s not elegantly handled. As is all too often the case with Leo, neither is the dialogue, which so frequently transmits as such rather than something someone would actually say. Examples from later in the book reveal plot elements, but when asked if friends have survived earlier Marie awkwardly replies “I think so, yes. Those two are resourceful and skilled!”
There are some dramatic moments here, but they’re swamped by less meaningful sequences.