REVIEW: Vic and Blood: The Continuing Adventures of a Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
REVIEW SUMMARY: A must-read for anyone who is a fan of “A Boy and His Dog” and a should-read for anyone else.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Graphic novel of three Ellison adaptations (plus Ellison’s original short stories) in which Vic and his telepathic dog named Blood travel a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of food and sex.
PROS: Excellent stories; graphic adaptations faithful to original material; high production value.
CONS: Visual adaptations appear before the source material.
BOTTOM LINE: A fine addition to the library of any sf fan.
I first read Harlan Ellison’s brilliant short story “A Boy and His Dog” many years ago. When I recently happened upon a graphic novel adaptation of not only that story, but two other stories that round out the saga of said boy and dog, I think I experienced what could only be referred to as glee. It was manly glee, but glee nonetheless. Even better: this particular graphic novel is more than it first appears. This 2003 reprint – for which Ellison has provided additional introductory material and flavor text in the form of quotes from the telepathic dog named Blood – has both graphic adaptations and the original stories on which they are based. Talk about easy purchase decisions.
Vic and Blood is made up of two stories (“Eggsucker” and “A Boy and His Dog”) and an excerpt (titled “Run, Spot” Run”) from the (still) upcoming book (Blood’s a Rover) that is meant to tell the complete story of Vic of Blood. For those wondering about Ellison’s anti-sequel rule, his introduction explains that 1969′s “A Boy and His Dog” is part of a larger novel that he has been writing for over 30 years. The story is finished, but the last, longest part is written as a screenplay with no current plans for production. With the year 2007 only hours away, there is still no indication of when Blood’s a Rover will be officially completed. Until then, Vic and Blood will have to suffice.
A word about reading order: Ellison recommends reading each original story before its corresponding graphic novel adaptation, so that’s what I did even though, oddly, each story is printed after the visual adaptation. I suspect this is to lead the graphics novel fan to written prose as opposed to my situation of book-lover reading the adaptations. I second Ellison’s recommendation: read the original stories first.
“Eggsucker” takes place before the events of Ellison’s classic “A Boy and his Dog”. It recounts an early adventure in the lives of Vic and Blood. It also provides a good introduction to the gritty, post-apocalyptic setting for all the stories. Sometime after World War IV, population has dwindled considerably and people are living day to day scrounging for the most valuable resource of all: food. But ammunition is valuable, too, and when Vic finds some booze, he enters into a food trade with a gang who has little respect for Vic’s short-tempered, four-legged partner. Blood, you see, has the power of telepathy and can communicate directly (and only) to Vic. Vic and Blood are solo rovers in search of food while avoiding roverpak gangs and mutated people called screamers. The adventure quotient here is tamer than later adventures but still nicely done.
Ellison’s Nebula-winning story “A Boy and His Dog” is the anchor of this book and still stands out as the superior work. Vic, now a very horny teenager, meets a girl named Quilla June Holmes who initially masquerades as a boy to safely walk amongst the horny male rovers. She is from the “downunder” (underground) city of Topeka, where residents try to assume a normal life decades after the world was demolished to ruins and savagery. Vic’s emotions for Quilla put him and Blood at risk. To overcome the challenges of the ensuing adventures, Blood must once again show that he is the smarter of the two and Vic goes to somewhat scary lengths to show just how loyal he is. This story best exemplifies Vic’s and Blood’s literary role switch of the man and beast. The ending has to be one of science fiction’s best.
“Run, Spot, Run” takes place immediately after the draw-dropping ending of the previous story. Headed for the unknown west once again, Vic and Blood encounter the rival Fellini roverpack. While attempting escape they run into a horde of nasty creatures. Being an excerpt, I expected “Run, Spot, Run” to be an unresolved cliffhanger. I was pleasantly surprised that the ending could simultaneously be considered both a cliffhanger and a tidy resolution, albeit one of high import.
The visual versions of the stories are quite faithful to the original material – to the point of being a cut-and-paste job of the original text. This is fine as it helps to translate the feel that Ellison successfully creates in the original material. Naturally, the graphic adaptations are going to be abbreviated. Reading the original stories beforehand helps quite a bit in this regard. Corben’s art is suitably dark, though his drawing style does not exactly suit my particular tastes. His all-too-scant pencil illustrations presented in the original material do much more to match the mood of Ellison’s stories and better show his skill.
Taken as a whole, Vic and Blood is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of “A Boy and His Dog” and a should-read for anyone else. Ellison’s prose is as spry and engaging as ever and also what one would expect from an author who is considered master of the short form. Simply put: the stories do not disappoint. And Ellison’s introduction provides some background trivia behind the stories and the 1975 movie adaptation starring Don Johnson and Jason Robards. I also note that the book’s overall production value is high and would make a fine addition to the library of any sf fan.
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