Stuff & Nonsense: Saturn Apartments


19 December 2014

Saturn Apartments


In a ringworld orbiting the Earth, where sunlight and clean windows are a hot commodity, Mitsu has recently graduated school and become an apprentice window-washer. His father, also a window-washer, fell to his death in an accident five years back. Some of the people Mitsu now works with knew his dad ... and not everyone liked him. So, Volume 1 of Saturn Apartments is very much about Mitsu learning his job, coming to grips with his dad’s death, and finding a place for himself in the window-washers’ guild.

It’s a "small" story that hints at bigger things -- the ringworld is intensely stratified class-wise, with poorer people living in the dimmer, dirtier lower levels and rich people living in the clean, naturally lit upper levels. The poor get sick because of lack of natural light and are willing to spend all their savings on one window cleaning, while the rich are just so other. (And then there’s the whole automation angle -- can the window-washers’ jobs be automated? What would that mean for a whole class of people? Would there be resistance?)

But none of that really signifies, at least not in this first volume. The (possibly dystopian) science fiction setting is strictly a backdrop against which play out small, recognizably human dramas. And it’s lovely, really. The art is beautiful, the stories poignant, and there’s just enough humor sprinkled through to keep everything from feeling to mawkish. I certainly look forward to reading the second volume and learning more about the people who live in the Saturn Apartments.

Saturn Apartments, Volume 1 by Hisae Iwaoka (Viz Media, 2010)

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