Things have gotten off to an embarrassingly slow start this year. Between added responsibilities at my day job, working on a bunch of new writing projects, and reading mostly short fiction in my downtime (one of my Christmas presents was a subscription to Lightspeed Magazine), I have really been neglecting getting started on this reading challenge.
So as a nod to my procrastination, I decided the first choice from the list should be “a book you previously abandoned”, and finally got all caught up on volumes 1-5 of Saga.
Though Saga is an ongoing comic series and not a book in the traditional sense, I’m letting it count anyway. The total word count across the first five volumes makes it just as long as a standard novel, and I have been itching to get caught up on the series ever since I read Vol. 1 over a year ago, and just…never purchased Vol. 2 (until now!).
Saga takes place in a massive, centuries-long war that began as a conflict between the “wings” of the planet Landfall and the “horns” of Wreath, Landfall’s only moon. Though no one remembers the actual reason for the fighting, the conflict has made its way out to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, with nearly every planet, dwarf planet, and moon taking up arms to fight for their chosen side. We start the series following Alana and Marko, a young married couple who spend the first few pages of the comic welcoming their newborn daughter Hazel into the world. But because Alana is a “wing” and Marko is a “horn” and both are military deserters, there is little time to revel in the joy of new parenthood before they are back on the run. Out of fear for what their inter-species relationship (and especially the existence of Hazel, the first winged/horned child ever born) would mean to the warring galaxy, both governments have hired out help in finding and eliminating the couple. We follow these pursuers, as well — a rugged freelancer hired by Wreath and a robot prince recruited by Landfall — as they navigate the war-torn world and their own personal battlefields on the way to their targets. These complex, interconnected storylines are narrated in retrospect by an all-grown-up Hazel, and her words and reflections add such an eerily beautiful touch to the tone of the story.
Brian K. Vaughn’s masterpiece is, at its core, a tale of destruction and creation and the relationship between the two, where every hero and villain is nuanced and fully realized in their own, screwed up ways. Saga is West Side Story meets Star Wars meets something out of any SFF fan’s wildest dreams, with decidedly feminist overtones and a wonderful range of racial and sexual diversity. Throw in absolutely breathtaking artwork by Fiona Staples, and you have quite possibly one of the greatest ongoing speculative fiction stories of the decade.
Yes, I know — I can’t believe I put this series down, either. But I am actually glad I was able to binge-read it the way I did, because there is a profoundly different feeling that comes from having the whole weight of the story hit all at once. Though the first five volumes of Saga span years (both in the comic and in publication date), I experienced it all within a week and a half. I witnessed beloved characters change in unexpected and sometimes monstrous ways. I read on as enemies became unlikely heroes or even allies, while previous alliances were severed by betrayal or untimely death. I dove back into the series thinking I knew what to expect, but so much story over such a short period of time left me gut-punched and winded in the most wonderful, wonderful way.
Now that I’m caught up, I’ll likely read the comic month-to-month as new issues come out. I’m so pleased, however, to have been able to experience the first five and a half volumes this way — this may just be the one and only time my procrastination has paid off!