The Moon Moth
written by Jack Vance
illustrated by Humayoun Ibrahim
Carlo Rotella, a professor at Boston College, opens up The Moon Moth with a fascinating foreword that describes writer Jack Vance’s place in the literary canon—or where his place should be. Vance, a sci-fi writer who has influenced and inspired scads of new authors who came after him, is a brilliant and criminally under-known writer. He should be celebrated more often, to be sure, but to see him get such respect here, in this graphic novel adaptation, is a fine start.
The Moon Moth is one of Vance’s classic short stories. It’s set on the planet Sirene, where the inhabitants all wear masks that hide their identities but mark their social statuses. Edwer Thissell is an outworlder sent to Sirene as a “consular representative of the home planets,” but he quickly finds that his education on the Sirenese people and their ways is woefully inadequate. He knows little of the types of masks they wear and why; the instruments that are essential to communication there; and the habits and social mores that they all live by. Not knowing how to act properly here can get you killed quickly, though, so Thissell must learn quickly.
What he also tries to learn is the details behind an unsolved murder. Here, the plot thickens in a brutally compelling mixture of sci-fi and classic murder mystery that is at once thrilling and ingeniously inventive.
Humayoun Ibrahim has done a very fine job of adapting the original work, making it colorfully vivid as it comes to life in a reverentially cartoony form. This would make a nice introduction to Vance’s work for any young reader (or adult ones). Once they’ve caught the bug for the genre Vance helped shape and define, they will no doubt be off to find more of his works to devour.