Delicately washed panel artwork by Caldecott Honoree Muth (Zen Shorts) underscores the hilarity of late Polish author Lem’s short story, originally published in 1957. Unable to repair his spaceship’s rudder alone, astronaut Ijon Tichy enjoys a “modest supper,” works some calculations, and heads to bed. (Readers will note with amusement the spacecraft’s cozy domestic fixtures: striped pajamas and pink oven mitts, an overstuffed armchair and fully equipped kitchen.) He’s awakened by another astronaut (“We’re going out and screwing on the rudder bolts”), but as there is no other astronaut—Tichy is the only one aboard—he dismisses the second as a phantom. Slowly the situation becomes clear: Tichy has entered a time loop, and the other astronaut is Tichy himself, as he exists 24 hours in the future. Lem follows the idea into absurdity as the Tichys multiply (“I saw my Monday self staring at me... while Tuesday me fried an omelet”), then descend into slapstick chaos, beginning to “quarrel, argue, bicker, and debate.” Though the multiple iterations may feel chaotic for some, Kandel’s translation and Muth’s art imbue the original with a crystalline, humorous clarity and delight. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
Distinctions and Praise for The Seventh Voyage:
An NPR Best Book of the Year
"An extremely funny, beautifully paced story of timey-wimey disaster and attempted rescue-and the perils of interaction with that most terrible of people-yourself. J Muth's hilarious and gentle masterpiece." -- Neil Gaiman
"Delicately washed panel artwork by Caldecott Honoree Muth (Zen Shorts) underscores the hilarity of late Polish author Lem's short story... Kandel's translation and Muth's art imbue the original with a crystalline, humorous clarity and delight." -- Publishers Weekly
"A colorful introduction to a brilliant science fiction author--Lem's visions of the future and Muth's art are a perfect match." -- School Library Journal
"Muth's atmospheric watercolor artwork gives an astounding sense of space. Vast expanses of darkness dotted with pale stars are the backdrops for Tichy's retro, tin-can-like spaceship, and Tichy himself, rendered in aqueous watercolors, has a charmingly limber look, which becomes increasingly comical as more and more Tichys appear at various ages. While this is a bit more sophisticated than the usual middle-grade graphic novel, space-mad kids who love arguing about the paradoxes of time travel will likely be wholly on board." -- Booklist
"Master artist Jon Muth makes this small story a place you can stay a while." -- NPR.org
Gr 4–8—Ijon Tichy is traveling through deep space when his ship's rudder breaks. He realizes he'll need two people to repair it, but he is alone. That is, until his ship enters a field of gravitational vortices that create time loops (which reverse time and duplicate the present), and he finds himself on a ship full of his own doppelgangers. If only he can convince another of his selves to cooperate, fixing the rudder will be simple. But tragically, and comically, all the Ijon Tichys do is argue with one another about everything from free will and the fixed nature of time to who gets the omelet and the last of the chocolate. This is a parody of paradoxical time travel, a deep space slapstick story, illustrated in delicate watercolors. The panels vary from full- and double-page layouts of dramatic cosmic scenes to multipaneled action shots that highlight the protagonist's confusion and anxiety. Most pages have both descriptive explanations and occasional, well-placed speech bubbles, but the vocabulary and sentence structure of the text may be difficult for some readers—Lem often plays with words and writes elaborately and idiomatically, which can be a challenge to translate. VERDICT A sly commentary on human social inadequacies that, depending on readers' tastes and insight, will be either totally hilarious or a bit perplexing and tedious, since readers end up learning about the same events again and again, from different perspectives. A colorful introduction to a brilliant science fiction author—Lem's visions of the future and Muth's art are a perfect match.—Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT
This time-travel story poses a philosophical question: If you could meet yourself, would the two of you get along?
In this graphic adaptation of Lem's 1957 short story (first published in English in 1976), a solo astronaut named Ijon Tichy is stuck in a time loop, and he keeps meeting past and future versions of himself. But rather than helping one another out, the multiple versions keep squabbling endlessly, for so long that, eventually, there are elderly Tichys onboard the ship. The many arguments make the story—almost by definition—a little repetitive, but they give Muth an excuse to paint dozens of hilariously baffled, nearly identical (all white) people in matching jumpsuits. For a story with only one character, the panels are surprisingly crowded. His artwork is as expressive as usual, but he's adopted a different style from the one so recognizable in his Zen Shorts picture books, not quite realistic, not quite cartoonish. It's almost as though he created a new, constantly befuddled species just for the book. The central joke is strung out a bit too long, and the introduction, written by A. Fraude on April 1, is mildly amusing but feels like padding. The solution to Tichy's problem, though, when it finally arrives, is poetic, funny, and rather sweet.
This beautifully absurd, sometimes maddening comic book gives new meaning to "Can't we all just get along?" (Graphic science fiction. 8-12)