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Laddertop Volume One by Orson Scott Card & Emily Janice Card and illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza

01/02/2012. Contributed by Phil Jones

Buy Laddertop Volume One in the USA - or Buy Laddertop Volume One in the UK

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pub: Seven Seas. 200 page manga graphic novel. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-76532-460-3.

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Twenty-five years ago, the Givers came to the Earth. Imbuing the human race with technology far beyond what they had seen before, including four huge towers known as ladders that rise 36,000 miles into space, providing power for the whole of the earth.

For reasons unannounced, the Givers disappeared leaving their technology behind. Resulting from the design of the space-stations there is only room enough for children to maintain them. These children are highly trained and chosen from a select group who are given the opportunity to study at the Laddertop Academy.

We join Robbi and Azure at school with the advent of selections for the Laddertop Academy. For Azure, being at the Academy and working on Laddertop has been her life-long ambition but not so for Robbi. So it comes as a huge surprise when Robbi is signed up. Turns out that her mum submitted an application. Robbi highlights that its Azure’s dream not hers but the two end up going to the Academy. In zero gravity, training for all Azure’s bombastic playful personality, she shows she has the ability to handle a difficult situation.

After plenty of training, the girls finally get to the point of selection. This is not by a human panel, but each candidate has to undergo a scan with alien technology. The alien scanner determines which children are suitable, but no one knows by what criteria it makes the selection. The mystery is broadened when Robbi enters the scanner and things don’t go as usual.

With Orson Scott Card’s pedigree, you would expect a lot more from this than was delivered with this first volume. The premise and set up are OK but squarely on familiar ground. I get a bit of déjà vu with the use of children as the main crux is in some way similar to ‘Ender’s Game’.

Don’t be expecting anything wildly new or revolutionary. This is serviceable if unremarkable Science Fiction manga. The artwork is passable and does the job it was intended to and maybe to some degree aimed at a younger audience, I just feel though it’s lacking something. The characters, up until the last few pages, are annoying at best with little depth. Especially, initially in the school setting, there is not much to make you warm to any of the characters. There is a glimmer of hope, though, as the story lifts towards the end of the volume and finally getting up to the space station, things start to look up. Robbi experience of hearing a strange (I assume alien) voice when she’s scanned and the strange dream as they ascend to the Laddertop hint at more interesting things to come.

Hopefully, this is just a slow start to the series is down to being mainly set-up of the story. There are a few interesting ideas that if developed well could make this a series to follow more closely.

Phil Jones

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