On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Published by Avery Hill Publishing, 2018 (first published in 2016)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Walden’s science-fiction epic is a graphic novel told across two timelines. The first follows Mia as she befriends and falls in love with Grace, the new girl at school. The second, which plays out simultaneously, follows Mia several years later as she joins the crew of a ship that travels around the galaxy, repairing historic buildings. It becomes clear that she has an ulterior motive, however. Having lost all contact with Grace for more than five years, she wants to find and reconnect with her first love, to make peace with the way they parted company.
I really enjoyed the characters and the story, feeling suitably invested to keep the pages turning with ease. The sense of camaraderie between the crew is great, and the balance of charm and adventure makes for a fun read. The sci-fi society that Walden created is undoubtedly interesting, but I felt the handling of the world-building was underwhelming, failing to capitalise on the narrative’s full potential. There are no men seen or mentioned anywhere in this universe, for example. As a result, everyone’s sexuality appears to be very fluid and open, which I thought was great. However, there are references to Earth, and a very well-handled non-binary character, which means they exist within a society that acknowledges the concept of multiple genders. How and why, then, have they come to exist entirely without men? This is a prime example of an interesting idea that is given no context; the lack of development leaving the reader with unnecessarily distracting questions. Given that the book is approaching 600 pages long, there was ample opportunity to explore these finer details and flesh out the world.
In terms of the visuals, there are, again, some very interesting ideas, and I loved the colour palette. I would describe the art style as a little ‘busy’, however. Coupled with a not particularly detailed finish, this left certain characters, objects and goings on somewhat difficult to decipher, particularly during action sequences. The text is also very small. This didn’t bother me, personally, but I can see a lot of people having to strain their eyes to be able to read it.
An altogether easy and enjoyable reading experience that was worth the time, if not as well executed as it could have been.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of On a Sunbeam, you can find it on Book Depository by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!