Emily Janice Card / Illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza
Category: Middle Grade Science Fiction Manga
Keywords: Science fiction, space, aliens, middle grade, friendship
Format: Paperback, audiobook (ARC received from Tor/Forge)
Based on Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series, this first volume follows Robbi and her rambunctious friend, Azure, when they are recruited to Laddertop--one of four space towers suspended 36,000 miles over the earth by a benevolent alien race called The Givers. Fierce competition tests the relationships between friends and enemies both. As Robbi contemplates what she is doing at the Academy, she begins to ponder the question too few people seem to be asking: are The Givers truly friends of Earth?
I really loved Ender's Game and so was excited to find out that a related manga was in the works. I found Laddertop entertaining, but a bit of a let-down. It's certainly not as deep or emotionally abrasive as the original story. This is understandable not because Azure and Robbi are eleven (Ender is younger still when he enters Battle School) but because of the format and audience chosen, but still, it's generally disappointing.
The story starts at a fair pace then comes to a quick halt--this is meant to be a series after all, and it wouldn't do to give it all away at once. But this first volume gives hardly any data to process--only query after unanswered query. Who are the Givers? What is the Scan? Why can only children work in the tubes--yes, we know they're the right size, but why must they be so small? Why couldn't the tubes have been built bigger?
While the artwork is decent, there is not much to set it apart stylistically; the seasoned manga reader won't have a whole lot to absorb apart from the occasional snippet of alien runes. I do have to applaud at least one visual reference (there is a panel that pays homage to several very recognizable space vehicles, including the TARDIS) and the racial diversity (which might only be apparent to me and a handful of my kababayan--countrymen--the Lieutenant's name is Bituin, the Tagalog word for "star"). This is one of the few themes that ties it to Ender's Game, along with friendship, bullying, and competition.
While younger readers might find this engaging, and older readers may be intrigued by the mystery, there is one thing that can kill this franchise before it even begins: time. As in, four months later, there is still no word of a second volume yet to be released. Which bring be to ask: where is it, and when can I get my hands on it? There's nothing quite so frustrating as a question without an answer, and that's Laddertop in a nutshell.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.