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Doug Chiang and Orson Scott Card
Chronicle Books, 176 pages

Doug Chiang
Doug Chiang studied film at the University of California, at Los Angeles, and industrial design at the Center of Creative Studies, College of Art and Design. He got his start as a Stop Motion animator on the Pee Wee's Playhouse television series. In 1989, he joined Industrial, Light, and Magic and became the Creative Director in 1993. He has earned both an Academy Award and a British Academy Award for Death Becomes Her and another British Academy Award for Forrest Gump. In 1995, Chiang left ILM to head up the Art Department as Design Director for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.

Doug Chiang Website

Orson Scott Card
Born in Richland, Washington, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid Mormon Church missionary, and received degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine, and five children.

In an unprecedented fashion, Card won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row for Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, in 1986 and 1987.

Orson Scott Card Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Crystal City
SF Site Review: Wyrms
SF Site Review: Songmaster
SF Site Review: Ender's Shadow
SF Site Review: Ender's Shadow
SF Site Review: Enchantment
SF Site Review: Heartfire
SF Site Review: Homebody
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Robota Many art books take an artist's vision and then have an author write text describing the individual paintings or the artist's work. Similarly, many stories are written and then illustrated by an artist with a sparse assemblage of paintings which may, or may not depict the characters and places the author's text describes. Doug Chiang and Orson Scott Card avoid both of these pitfalls in their production Robota.

From reading the introduction, it appears that the concept behind Robota came from Chiang, who has done a great deal of work in Hollywood, including the artistic conceptual design for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It seems he began to outline to story of Robota long ago in order to create a display of artwork of the alien planet which would be coherent and cohesive. Thus was born a planet which was settled by humans, but now ruled by robots while the humans are left in the jungles with animals whose intelligence and sentience has been increased.

Chiang apparently approached Card to turn the basic outline into a story which would hold together and serve to illustrate the paintings that Chiang had created. Card's story, about a human named Caps, begins with an almost fairy tale aura as Caps emerges from a strange machine with no memory. He acquires non-human traveling companions, who are equally two dimensional and begins to learn about his planet. While the idea of a protagonist who has no memory is somewhat clichéd, Card handles it well and uses it to provide information to the reader. More importantly, as Caps learns more about Robota, Card is able to successfully introduce plot twists which the reader doesn't expect, but which do not seem forced.

The story and the artwork work well together and are generally laid out to complement each other. There are places where the paintings tend to foreshadow the action, but never do so in an conspicuous manner. Perhaps more importantly, Chiang's paintings portray parts of Robota and its inhabitants that do not figure in Card's story. This gives the world, and the work, more depth than if they art and text had walked lockstep together. Chiang's work also give the reader the chance to search the paintings' fine points about Robota and he is more than happy to put those details into the works.

While at first glance, Robota appears to be an high-concept art book, the marriage between text and artwork lift the book above the simple concept and give the work some meat. The story, while it could stand on its own, is strengthened by the paintings, which tell their own narrative, although one which is reinforced by Card's text. Between the strong story and the art, Robota is well worth the price.

Copyright © 2004 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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