shifting earth

I don’t want to admit it quite yet, but the end of summer is almost here… and I’m still thinking about all the books I meant to read over the summer. I was very ambitious, and I haven’t finished enough of them, but I’m an incurable book collector – it’s a law of the universe. Speaking of universes, Cecil Castellucci, Flavia Biondi, and Fabiana Mascolo’s new sci-fi graphic novel Shifting Earth imagines our own future world ravaged by climate change contrasted with a mirror universe where the population works together in astonishing ways, but cannot completely escape human darkness.

shifting earrth by cecil castelluci, flavia biondi, fabiana mascolo book cover
In a not-so-distant future, a freak particle storm has landed botanist Dr. Maeve Millay on an idyllic yet strange parallel Earth, with no way back home.

Here, two moons rule society, and nature outshines science. But just like her own climate ravaged planet, this verdant Earth has a sinister side. Children are rare. Humans must serve a purpose or pay an unthinkable price. Astronomer Zuzi battles this underlying darkness every day—just like Maeve did at home. Both women are fighters, and both face a choice: forge new paths, or save the worlds they've always known? Maeve will have to decide, and fast—because she's fighting for more than just herself.

In Shifting Earth, botanist Maeve is frustrated and, in some ways, hopeless – humanity has wrecked her near-future planet, and she’s struggling to preserve wild seed varieties to find something that will help humanity survive growing plagues and devastation. When she connects with an old friend at a conference, he urges her to come see his work, and this leads eventually to Maeve’s landing on an alternate earth with two moons and very different problems. On this other earth, usefulness is the true measure of value, and astronomer and scientist’s Zuzi’s work has been deemed useless. Maeve’s arrival unsettles Zuzi’s utopian-esque world in new ways, and it will take the effort and will of many to unravel what happened, and how to send Maeve back home.


I liked that this graphic novel asked some big questions in a fairly short volume. What is the good life? How do we create it for ourselves and generations to come? How do we preserve what we have and remain adaptable and open to the future and change? All of these are good questions, and Castellucci’s story not only poses them, but tries to begin answering them through Maeve and Zuzi’s intertwined narrative as well. I also liked that a variety of relationship dynamics were portrayed in the story, and the déjà vu interactions between Maeve and the alternate universe versions of her loved ones and friends.


One thing I had complicated feelings about: *spoiler alert* (highlight if you want to read) the forced birth plotline. *end spoiler* I also didn’t feel as invested in Zuzi’s portion of the story – perhaps partially because the stakes did not seem high until later in the narrative. It felt as though she and her partner did not get as much page time as Maeve & co. The stars of this story are the premise (getting sucked into an alternate universe: COOL!) and the climate change urgency driving the plot forward. The conclusion is meant to be a stunner but is weakened by neatly-tied resolution on one hand, and a sort of blank, unknowingness on another. After thrilling build-up, I felt unsatisfied.


Let’s talk the art, an ever-important part of any graphic novel experience! Biondi’s creativity comes through – especially in the depiction and imagination of what the shifting particles scenes that transport a character from one universe to another might look like, and in the visual conception of alternate earth. The art reminded me of the clean, professional lines of the Saga series, and it’s clearly created for the discerning adult comics reading fan. The palette contains a lot of earth tones (apropos for an earth-y story, ha ha) and what I call muted brights – colors that would be vivid at full contrast but are darkened or muted a bit.


In all, Shifting Earth is a thought-provoking science fiction graphic novel about climate change, alternate universes, and the essential humanity that ties us together, for good and bad.


Recommended for: fans of science-heavy science fiction and inventive adult graphic novels.


Shifting Earth will be available from Berger Books/Dark Horse on August 30, 2022.


Fine print: I received an ARC from the publisher as part of a giveaway. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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