With their spaceship falling apart around them and little or no income coming in, Valerian and Laureline find themselves on Rubanis, unable to afford the repairs and unable to leave. Fortunately, all is not lost as they’re offered paid work by a previous acquaintance, the Rubanis Chief Of Police. Although he is pretty much running the planet on his own terms, he wants to know who or what resides at the city’s centre and is willing to pay Valerian and Laureline the danger money to find out.
Rubanis is an advanced world, but bedevilled by corruption, so as the heroes pass through the city’s five distinct circles they face numerous difficulties and dangers, although they do benefit from the local knowledge and guidance of S’Tracks, a somewhat reckless but effective taxi driver. As a planet based on corruption this isn’t ever going to be a smooth ride, and there are other curiosities along the way, such as the shrunken heads and reduced mental capacity of the planet’s elite. The answers lie within that first circle.
We’re hearing much about strong female leads in storytelling recently, but Mézières & Christin have been doing it for decades, making Laureline independent, competent, witty, sarcastic and very capable in the face of danger. Some of the best lines in the last two books are either delivered by her or set up by her. The other thing worth mentioning, although it’s quite obvious if you’ve seen it, is the similarity between this book and the movie The Fifth Element. Mézières worked on the film, supplying concept art from as early as 1991, so there’s a bit of Valerian and Laureline in the movie and, to some degree, a bit of The Fifth Element in The Circles Of Power. Most strikingly, Bruce Willi’s character was originally a factory worker, but after Luc Besson saw the story and art this was changed to a flying taxi driver.
This is certainly a pivotal book in the series, and may well work as a good jumping on point. Whether you opt to do that or not, you’ll definitely be needing to hop back to the beginning and delve into these books from the start. It’s a richly realised vision of the future, constantly inventive and happy to explore unusual and outlandish concepts, which is precisely what it makes it a consistently fresh read.
And if you liked that: Book 16 on its way soon, but check out them all at www.cinebook.com