Review by Frank Plowright
The introductory volume introduced us to Ian and Emma and their companions, a small pocket of humanity surviving in subterranean tunnels beneath a destroyed city and scavenging for supplies. They live a hand to mouth existence with what they can find or cultivate, while simultaneously on high alert for the robots that could end their lives in a second. We don’t know how this society came about, just that for humanity it’s the near future.
Ian is somewhat the optimist and engineering genius, and when a giant robot didn’t kill him at the first opportunity Ian gambled his life on it not being merely a temporary malfunction. He was able to repair the robot, but it disappeared. We’re now a year on from the conclusion to the first book, and Sam is back. He’s silent, so undiscernable, yet he once again takes on a robot endangering Ian and his friends, and once again saves them. This at least wins over most of the community, for whom safety first concerns about robots are ingrained.
Although the series is named after the designation stencilled on the giant robot, Richard Marazano’s focus remains on the surviving humans and their hopes. Those hopes are greatly elevated in this book as there’s the possibility of renewed contact with other humans, and after several years of an existence where a cooked rat is a delicacy, that’s almost beyond price. The cover shows Ian’s relationship with Sam definitely progresses to a higher place, and Marazano is very good in extolling the virtue of faith as a powerful aphrodisiac.
Xiao Shang’s art looks so much better when presented on gloss paper stock ensuring the darkness and gloom so necessary for the mood and underground existence is maintained, but also ensuring that the detail doesn’t disappear into the shadows, which was a problem with the first volume.
The human group we’re following remain in the city centre as more isolated regions render them more vulnerable to attack from patrolling robots. Sam gives them the opportunity to forage further afield, with medicine a priority.
This toying with the theme of the Iron Giant continues to engage and impress, and this volume ends with a cliffhanger to drag us into A Million Winters.