The first volume of Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boy arrived last week and for me it's currently the lead contender for book of the year. I was stunned at Urasawa's storytelling, gently teasing various plot threads alongside believable characters. The book is beautifully paced in a way that allows character histories to be revealed and yet always feels like a thriller. I felt completely at ease with the genre-hopping direction of the book such was the strength of the world Urasawa had created - here is a book that features a scene with young boys glued to grainy pictures on a television of the first moon landing and a brief image of a giant robot looming over a city. Police mystery, conspiracy thriller and sci-fi mix comfortably alongside flashbacks to childhood misadventures that could have featured in a Stephen King novel.
In fact the only aspect that took a little getting used to is that when the reader is shown a flashback, we see what actually happened sometimes before the central characters have accurately remembered it themselves. Also, I would have liked to seen a book cover that didn't accentuate the childhood aspect of the story quite so much. It's a nice cover and seen as a whole series, it probably shows the progress the series takes, but it's not wholly reflective of the content. Highly recommended. SLS