The Last Days of Krypton
Written by: Kevin J. Anderson
Published By: HarperEntertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I first heard of The Last Days of Krypton, I was intrigued. For one thing, to my knowledge, no one had ever written a novel detailing this part of Supermanís history before. And then there was the fact that the author was Kevin J. Anderson, an author whose work I have enjoyed in the past. When I found the novel in Barnes and Noble at a steal of a price, I simply had to have it.
For The Last Days of Krypton, Kevin J. Anderson was forced to pour through the numerous tales regarding the destruction of Krypton that have appeared in Superman comics and movies. He then had to combine them all to create a credible telling of the very last days before the planet was destroyed. Not an easy task and yet, Kevin J. Anderson is a wonderful storyteller and I had the utmost faith in him.
It all begins almost a year before Kal-El is launched toward Earth. Krypton is a peaceful planet but not without its problems. Hampered by a Council of twelve who canít seem to decide on anything, Krypton has grown stagnant. Their technology, while more advanced than ours, is not allowed to grow thanks to laws that ban research into space travel and prohibit any inventions that could be used as a weapon. This law was set in place after a terrorist act using advanced technology created after an alien visitation destroyed one of Kryptonís moons.
Jor-El, Kryptonís premiere scientist, is frustrated at the constant prohibition of his inventions, but his greatest frustration comes from the Councilís ignorance. For years he has warned that Kryptonís sun, Rao, is on the verge of going supernova, but no one will listen. In the meantime, Zor-El, Jor-Elís brother has discovered that the very core of Krypton is in danger - pressure is building up and unless released, it could mean the destruction of the planet.
In the midst of all of these revelations, comes Lara Lor-Van, daughter of renowned artists and an artist in her own right. She is mesmerized by Jor-El and his dedication to his scientific studies is incredibly endearing to her. When Lara unwittingly stumbles upon Jor-El at his greatest hour of need, he canít help but take notice of her and the two fall in love. Thus begins the unity of the parents of Kal-El.
But tragedy is about to strike in a form that no one expected and rising from the ashes is a new leader, one who has been waiting in the wings long enough. Dru-Zod, former Commissioner for Technology Acceptance, with the help of his consort Aethyr-Ka and his mute ward Nam-Ek, brings the survivors of this new disaster together under the guise of rebuilding what was lost. Only a select few can see what he is trying to do and before they can sound the alarm, they are silenced. Can Jor-El, Lara and Zor-El save Krypton from itself and the rise of an unforgiving dictator?
From start to finish, I loved The Last Days of Krypton. For me, this book is the definitive source for the back story of Superman. All of the major players in Supermanís history are represented here - Jor-El, Zor-El, Lara, Zod, Nam-Ek (otherwise known as Nod), Aethyr (otherwise known as Ursa), Brainiac and even JĎonn JĎonzz. It is in this novel that we learn where Jor-El and Lara got the technology that enabled them to fly Kal-El away from the planet before it was destroyed, why they chose Earth as Kal-Elís new home, the technology used in creating Kal-Elís crystal sanctuary, the creation of the Phantom Zone, the creation of green Kryptonite, the inspiration for the S-shaped emblem on Supermanís uniform, the loss of civilization on Mars and more.
Anderson handles the numerous theories about the destruction of Krypton quite well, melding them all into this novel. The idea that Kryptonís sun went supernova is represented in Jor-Elís theory about the star. The theory about a wayward comet comes into play as the sun pushes the comet off course. The idea about the instability of the planetís core takes front stage as not one, but two separate disasters that befall the people of Krypton. For a peaceful planet, Krypton undergoes a vast majority of tragic events in the year leading up to Supermanís birth - the destructive instability of Rao, the instability of the planetís core, visitations by alien forces on two separate occasions, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, threat-by-runaway-comet and more.
I enjoyed the way the people of Krypton, though perhaps vastly different from the people of Earth, often showed traits that were very similar to those of Earthlings. They not only exhibited the good - loyalty, honor, hunger for knowledge, compassion, leadership - they also showed the bad - greed, corruption, complacency, fear, self-indulgence. And they even suffered a disease quite similar to our Alzheimerís. By making them very similar to us, Anderson allows us to gain an easier understanding of the people of Krypton and makes them people we can relate to.
I also enjoyed the fact that, while inherently evil, Anderson was careful to include some traits in the ďbad guysď that made them more endearing to the reader. Zodís loyalty and caring when it came to his ward Nam-Ek was something I had never realized prior to reading this novel. Aethyrís intelligence and thirst for adventure was something else that was new to me, as was Nam-Ekís love for the animal kingdom.
Kevin J. Anderson loves working with crystals as witnessed in the Crystal Doors series he wrote with Rebecca Moesta. This made Krypton a virtual playground for the author, as Kryptonians used crystals for everything from building materials to scientific focal points to recording devices to works of art. Believe me, Anderson took full advantage of the variety of crystals to be found on this world and put them to great use.
I am not a huge Superman fan although I have read quite a few Superman comics and watched Superman cartoons, television series and some of the movies. Iím more of a Batman fanÖSuperman was always more of a boy scout compared to the brooding nature of Batman and, for some reason, he appealed to me less. And yet, I have always been intrigued by the story behind Supermanís existence. As a fan of Kevin J. Anderson, I expected big things from The Last Days of Krypton and he delivered, offering up a captivating back story for the Man of Steel that I didnít want to put down until I had read the last page. The Last Days of Krypton is a must have for any Superman fan out there and a must read for any Kevin J. Anderson fan.