“Future Science Jesus”

Warren Ellis (newuniversal, Thunderbolts, Desolation Jones) is one of those writers who even at his most lackadaisical, his stories are interesting, hyper, and edgy, not easily slipping from the mind. Sometimes his ideas are big (Planetary), sometimes he’s simply exploring what the comic book form can do (Fell). Sometimes he likes to mount philosophical campaigns with a measure of technofuturism thrown in for good measure, integrating every half-possible speculation into his writings (Transmetropolitan, so the comparisons between these two books is understandable).

As much anarchist manifesto, V for Vendetta with a more science fiction bent, Doktor Sleepless is chock full of Ellis’ philosophical musings, throwing out some interesting ideas about the present and future of technology and its impact on social networking, community, and our individuality.

“All are welcome in my house for it has many rooms.” –Doktor Sleepless

Doktor Sleepless, aka John Reindhart, our post-modern shaman and techno-messiah, stopped being real and became a character. By his thinking, the only way for a messenger to promulgate his message is to create an image of himself, shifting from man to legend, in order for his ideas to take root and spread. The reader right away dives into a techno-fetishist world of drugs, IM on contact lenses (Clatter), extreme body modifications, abortions kept as jewelry, shriek girl subculture (girls who are wirelessly connected for simultaneous experience), and tulpas (idea thought forms made manifest).

“The one thing I can tell you about the world is that it doesn’t work. It is in fact so fucking broken that if it were this computer here, you’d take it to the store and demand a new one.” –Doktor Sleepless

The grinders, the everyday work class, toil in what passes for their lives in Heavenside, a place separated by a mountain range from Hellside. Signs have popped up expressing their disappointment with the future they were promised: No flying cars, no jet packs, no space ships, no ray guns. Doktor Sleepless has taken it upon himself to lead them from their mundane lives of complacency and acceptance and move them toward a path of fulfilling who they were meant to be.

The first step on this path to individual freedom is the realization of the dilemma that we find ourselves in. In their world, there is something terribly wrong. The people live lives of coerced conformity, their freedoms curtailed. They sense that they weren’t who they were supposed to be. For the grinders, their shame, their sin, is in their very ordinariness, aggressive apathy, not life to their fullest potential.

“Changing the world is as easy, and as hard, as just changing the way every thinks about their world.” –Doktor Sleepless

The true revolution begins, with a new idea and faith in a new hope. For such a revolution to take root, it needs messengers to carry the idea forth and converts to live out the mission. Doktor Sleepless and his assistant, the murdering assassin/bodyguard Nurse Igor, weave a tapestry of symbols, propaganda war, and the occasional spot of violence to nudge the grinders toward taking ahold of their situation, living for their future rather than waiting on it.

“Stop looking for something that isn’t there. You live in the future and you don’t know it.” –Doktor Sleepless

Doktor Sleepless is more than Ellis being Ellis. It’s science-fiction at its highest, full of ideas examining community, identity, ideas, future, technology. It also sees Ellis at his most poetic, though admittedly some of the prose in the book began as flash fiction pieces for him. He’s not walking through this one, doling out fanboy biscuits of violence and bastards. There is a brooding intentionality, a philosophical scraping, as he pulls together not only this graphic novel but in a bit of meta collaboration, a shared/network experience, a wiki emulator website so that entries can be added to by anyone. Everything is connected.

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