Skip to main content

It's not very often that you see a comic book that can be classified as Hard Science Fiction, but Yukinobu Hushino's 2001 Nights certainly qualifies.  It was originally published in the mid-'80s in the manga magazine Monthly Super Action and then translated into English by Viz Comics as a series of graphic novels in 1996.

The title evokes the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is an important source of inspiration for the series, combined with the Thousand and One Nights.  Instead of following the adventures of a single protagonist, the series is a collection of tales, each one called a "Night", tracing the story of mankind's journey to the stars.

The first story, "Night 1: Earthglow", illustrates a recurring theme of the series.  It is set in the immediate future.  Mideast tensions have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and the pilots of a US Space Shuttle wonder if their secret mission will precipitate it.  Their flight plan brings them to a Soviet Space Station and they learn that their secret cargo is the President, who is going to meet with the Soviet Premier in a place where they can see the earth without borders, as a single planet.  This story offers both the hope that the promises of technology and of space can solve our problems, and the fear that the conflicts of the past will remain with us.

Both that hope and that fear echo through many of the stories.  In "Night 11: Stranger's Footsteps", two nations vie to establish colonies on the same planet; In "Night 12: Symbiotic Planet", colonies established on a planet by rival nations learn a lesson in cooperation by the planet's ecosystem.

At the end of "Night Night 7: Lucifer Rising", Father Chavez, the priest accompanying a mission to a newly-discovered planet beyond the orbit of Pluto, prays:

To Man, who in the distant past lost Paradise and now prepares to journey of his own will away from even the glory of the sun... please grant mercy and forviveness... that our descendants not spread into the universe still as sinful as we... Please, Lord...
The series is not an optimistic look at the future.  Many of the space colonies fail; some spectacularly.  By the end of the series, mankind has grown tired of the expansion and has begun to withdraw back to the Solar System.  But humanity has also spawned a "New Generation," people who may be the next stage of evolution who will remain traveling the stars after their planet-bound fathers have returned to Earth.  

Several of the stories follow a single family, the Robinsons, as succeeding generations travel farther and farther out into space.  Early in the series, a colony ship is sent out carrying banks of sperm and ova that will be grown into colonists.  A generation or two later, FTL travel has been developed and one of the descendants of the original donors puts his fortune into terraforming the planet that colony ship is bound for so that his cousins will have a hospitible place to land when it arrives.  Other members of the Space Family Robinson play important parts in other stories and the "The Final Night: Children of Earth" brings many of the generational plot threads back together.

Most of the stories are fairly short, maybe a dozen pages or so; but a couple of them are more lengthy and deserve special comment.  One is "Lucifer Rising."  Mankind is still limited to the Solar System, although a couple of extra-solar missions have been launched; (one an unmanned probe called Discovery, described in Night 6, and which contains the most obvious 2001 references; the other the Robinson Family seeder ship, which we first encounter in "Night 4: Posterity").  A hitherto unknown planet is discovered outside the orbit of Pluto composed entirely of antimatter.  The Vatican sends a priest on the mission to the planet, called Lucifer, in order to prove that it is indeed the "Devil's star" and that further space exploration is contrary to God's Will.  But Father Sanchez, the Vatican's emmisary, is a scientist as well as a priest.  As he grapples with his conflicting missions, he also grapples with his own guilt over failing to save a crewman who died in a space accident.  And in addition, someone is performing acts of sabotage on the ship.  Hushino interveves his story with asides about the formation of the Solar System, evolution, and excerpts from Paradise Lost.

The penultimate tale in the collection, "Night 18:  Odyssey in Green",  is another epic, taking up a volume and a half of the Viz collection.  Mankind is starting to withdraw back to the Solar System.  Most of the colonies have failed; habitable planets are few and far between.  But one thing could revitalize man's exploring spirit:  if they could find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.  So far, humans have discovered life on other worlds, but no other people.  Then a spacecraft passing near Betelguese encounters a rapidly-moving object being propelled from the planet by a laser drive; an enormous beam of energy coming from the planet's surface and pushing it.  While investigating the planet, the ship is damaged by a second laser pulse, and the surviving crew are stranded on a jungle world trying to find the civilization which built the laser.  What they find is nothing like they expect.

The final night brings the last of the roving Robinsons to the planet in the Tau Ceti system where the children of the original Robinson Project, sent from Earth long ago, have formed an idyllic colony; along with the New Generation, who have plans of their own.  The meeting marks the end of the first wave of human exploration, but also the beginning of a new one.  Even in leaving the Earth, mankind seems unable to shake the clay of past sins, past grudges, past mistakes off its feet.  And yet hope remains, and the stars are there to beckon us on.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sun Mar 11, 2012 at 06:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Manga And Anime Fans At DailyKos, DKOMA, Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site