Friday, January 04, 2013

Penny Reviews: Ministry of Space

Published from 2001 to 2004, Ministry of Space is a three-part alternate history comic detailing the ascension of the British space program. It's a series that is more about establishing a setting; an enthralling long form version of lying alongside Warren Ellis in your sleeping bags at a birthday party, playing "would you rather" in the dark.

This scenario asks us to choose between our current world, with its embarrassing interest in space, and a world with Sir John Dashwood, who heaps bodies, dreams, and human decency high enough that Britain can scramble atop and clutch the Moon as early as 1953 and Mars a mere sixteen years later.

It's a delicious thought: slick spaceships plying the skyways and spaceways of Earth, bearing the symbol of the whole and eternal British Empire. Even Americans can feel the call of that single-minded sense of purpose, to leave the world and its quibbles behind and we move towards something—anything.

The final pages of the book reveal the costs, bringing the romantic conjecture to a full stop. The ominous framing device and damning egomania of Dashwood aren't enough to fully herald the sins committed and good extinguished by his mission to elevate Britain above all other nations.

Dashwood directs the eyes of The Empire toward the stars, so that they would never stray into its own heart. The social advancement of Britain isn't just arrested--as many American reviewers assume--but reversed into archaic institutions it has historically never held. Ministry of Space's technological progress is beholden not to a public will, but the very private will of John Dashwood. It invites the possibility that we haven't gone to Mars yet because we aren't yet ready for Mars. The possibility that grandeur of space will wait for us.

But still, what if?

1 comment:

Terry Moore said...

I enjoyed it but did find the twist a little contrived.