The Two Faces of Tomorrow

The Two Faces of TomorrowSummary: Midway through the Twenty-first century, an integrated global computer network manages much of the world’s affairs. A proposed major software upgrade—an artificial intelligence—will give the system an unprecedented degree of independent decision-making power, but serious questions are raised in regard to how much control can safely be given to a non-human intelligence. In order to more fully assess the system, a new space-station habitat—a world in miniature—is developed for deployment of the fully operational system, named Spartacus. This mini-world can then be “attacked” in a series of escalating tests to assess the system’s responses and capabilities. If Spartacus gets out of hand, the system can be shut down and the station destroyed . . . unless Spartacus decides to take matters into its own hands and take the fight to Earth.

Adapted from James P. Hogan’s classic science-fiction novel by the award-winning Yukinobu Hoshino, The Two Faces of Tomorrow is hardcore science-fiction manga at its best.

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The Two Faces of Tomorrow, by James P. Hogan and Yukinobu Hoshino 8.25

I had never heard of ‘The Two Faces of Tomorrow’ when I decided to pick it up.

It was just standing there at the library check-out counter, discarded by another patron. It didn’t make much of an impression at first glance, but I nonetheless perused it quickly. The art was appealing enough, and I decided to give it a go. At 26 chapters and 576 pages in length, it was a brick, but I figured that it might be worth discovering . And, if it didn’t reel me in, I could quit it anytime and simply return it.

I soon discovered that, once started (or, at least, after the first 20 or so pages), it was actually impossible to quit ‘The Two Faces of Tomorrow’: it’s a riveting science-fiction thriller with echoes of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Ender’s Game’.

 ‘The Two Faces of Tomorrow’ is about a space station that has been set-up with a new computer system and which has been programmed with a survival instinct – the purpose of which is to test the lengths to which the a.i. will go to ensure its survival. Fearing that humanity may be at risk, a group of scientists, in conjunction with governments and military forces, map out every detail of this exercise – which quickly gets out of control.

What I loved was the whole conflict of man versus machine and how it was developed. Even though I couldn’t wrap my mind around most of its science, and frequently had no idea what they babbling about, it all seemed to make enough sense to me that I could go along. And I’m not just talking about the basic concepts, either: the characters’ behaviour and the way that the events unfolded (which I won’t relate here to avoid spoilers) also seemed credible.

I think that James P. Hogan, who wrote the 1979 original, has crafted a marvellous story. Not having read his version, I can’t fathom how he would have managed to describe all that happens with mere words; there is a lot of robotics and other technical activity which seem ill-suited to the written page (to me, at least). It seems like an inspired choice to adapt this to a graphic novel format, where one can clearly see and grasp what is happening.

The problem here is that Hoshino’s art isn’t always suited to describing the action: whenever there’s no dialogue or narration, it’s difficult to figure out what’s happening, finding myself scrutinizing the page to make sense of it. It may very well be that the issue is with this reader, that I’m not used to this manga veteran’s style , but this rarely happens – and I’m a seasoned graphic novel enthusiast. So I had to dock the book for this.

Still, it remains that ‘The Two Faces of Tomorrow’, clunky as it can be, is a captivating read: it has a terrific premise and it unfolds in such a way that one has no time for ennui. I’m not sure that I would recommend the novel, given how densely technical it must be (an assumption, admittedly), but I will likely be buying the graphic novel for a few friends and spreading the word.

I may have stumbled upon it by chance, but it won’t be forgotten tomorrow.

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