Metal Made Flesh is an illustrated cyber-punk novella from Simeon Aston and Jeremy Biggs. They have enjoyed impressively swift success with the launch of their Kickstarter, having already made double their target. Not too shabby at all!
The format and structure with which they intend to convey their story has a refined symmetry. Three assassins: Isobel Vice (Metal), Kalibos (Made) and Phaeon Nex (Flesh). Three stand-alone yet umbilically linked books. Each installment is designed to be a self contained origin story as they fight for survival in the hostile uber-tech environment of Tuaoni. This trinity will then provide the springboard for a widening of scope and future tales.
I have been reading a trial run copy of Metal Made Flesh – III. Flesh.
Aston, the artist, has been developing this concept and the worlds within it for some five years. He has amassed a considerable body of work in this time. This project is clearly one which has inspired him.
His art is indeed inspirational. It quite unashamedly proclaims it’s heritage, clearly influenced by the likes of Moebius, Syd Mead and H.R. Giger. The finessed detail illustrated here is quite simply lovely to behold. One is placed in awe of the apparent technology; in wonder of the various life-forms. Crucially, the most important reaction is fear.
This child is illustrated as both a creature of sympathy and terror. All this in a harsh, metallic, precision engineered world where the bright Xenon and Argon lighting feels like frost coating on naked skin. We are after all, examining the origin of an assassin.
The narrative prose is delivered in four chapters; Territory – which sets the staging for the moment of origin , if you will. A Blind Eye – The revelation of the motive behind the need for Phaeon Nex and the consequential dirty deeds. Subsequently, Loose Ends and Warm Flesh, provide the necessary springboards for future development.
I’m loathe to reveal much detail regarding the plot, especially as we’re addressing prose here. The tone of the copy throughout is highly reminiscent of the recounting one may have read in a Raymond Chandler novel, or perhaps heard in the initial studio release of Blade Runner. Indeed, the Kickstarter presentation quotes Philip K. Dick and William Gibson as influences.
The opening is strong, dropping the reader into the story, moments after the particular scene has clearly begun. Admirable. The exposition promptly familiarises the reader with the issues at hand and all systems are go.
Phaeon is a character that one is meant to dislike. Biggs very adequately expresses the dark, psychotic and perverted nature of this individual. The words and thoughts of a psychopath should be disturbing and unpleasant.
Unfortunately for this reader, from this point on, the words begin to diminish in strength, the narrative loses it’s focus and in too many instances, solutions are found in cliche.
What is quite puzzling however, is that certain small themes within the prose are just abandoned mid-stream, begging the question as to why they are referenced at all. This takes genuine momentum away from the overriding innovations within this potentially epic tale.
An illustrated 28 page novella ultimately relies on the text and sadly in this instance, it does not adequately match the inherent quality of the concept, nor the exuberant execution of the imagery.
I am mindful that I am commenting on a trial run issue and I am hopeful that such matters can be addressed as implementation progresses, following a happily robust Kickstarter campaign.
I will certainly be watching this space.
To find out more, please check out the excellent Kickstarter presentation for Metal Made Flesh here. It’s certainly worth a visit and contains some scintillating content.