Monday, March 23, 2009

Jeff Hawke: The Ambassadors

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Jeff Hawke: The Ambassadors (volume two) (Titan, 2008).

In the mid-1980s, when Titan was originally doing its lines of black-spined, 64-to-80 page collections of British comics, they released a pair of Jeff Hawke editions, each reprinting three serials. Hawke's original home was a comic strip in the Daily Express which ran for two decades. Titan didn't start from the beginning, but about six years into the run, when Willie Patterson took over writing chores from the strip's creator and artist Sydney Jordan. The two books featured cover artwork by Brian Bolland and were quite popular, but they never released a third volume.

Twenty years later, and with their other collected editions proving very successful, Titan went back to the well and has now upgraded those old paperbacks considerably as a pair of nice hardcover editions. The first book, which I reviewed briefly a year ago, reprinted the first four of the six serials which Titan had done in the 1980s. This book features the remaining two, along with a further three storylines not previously reprinted, and they include introductory pages and a complete "stripography" of all the character's storylines.

Honestly, I enjoyed the unpredictable and witty stories so much more than just about any other science fiction material available today. Hawke is a thoughtful diplomat, working with bemused curiosity at the latest strange "non-invasion" of Earth by some unusual aliens. The title story deals with some oddball ambassadors who are flabbergasted to learn that birds are not the dominant species on our planet, while another wonderful one features some tiny alien students wreaking havoc after they boost a scientist's intelligence and conceptual understanding of physics, only to have him retreat to a levitated Winnebago and try to blackmail the British government with a heat ray.

Patterson and Jordan's solutions to the very unusual challenges are reasoned and rational, with very little violence or wild action, leading to very entertaining stories with unexpected resolutions. Jordan's artwork is gorgeously detailed, with a believable and consistent design for the far-flung future of the 1990s.

I don't believe that Titan has announced plans for any further Jeff Hawke collections yet, but I hope they do. These are very intelligent, whimsical stories, and highly recommended for fans of British literary science fiction. If you've got Clarke, Kneale and Wyndham on your shelves already, you'll probably want Patterson and Jordan. More please, Titan!

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