For the Benefit of Mankind

By Liu Cixin

For the Benefit of Mankind, a novel by Liu Cixin
Book details About the author

The Trolley Problem is an interesting mental exercise that asks you would you let one person die to save many? To do so you would have to divert the trolley from the path of the five and be culpable for it hitting the one. In theory it makes sense, the many not the few, but could you really pull that lever and make the decision in time? You would need to detach yourself from events or just have cold ice running through your veins. If you needed three people assassinated For the Benefit of Mankind, you could just hire the best killer there is. 

Our Earth is in flux. Five years ago, an alien race visited and informed us that we are one of four similar Earths they designed eons ago. Now, we must face colonisation from one of these other Earths. For the everyday person, there is little they can do, and life goes on, but things are looking up as the super-rich have started to hand out millions of pounds to everyone. Will this colonisation be a utopia? If so, why has a shady cabal of the super-rich hired one of the best assassins in the world to kill three innocent people? 

Benefit is one of the new set of comic adaptations of Cixen Liu’s work. In this case Sylvain Runberg and Miki Montlló do a fantastic job of capturing the story. There are several layers of the narrative that unfurl as the novel progresses. At the start it looks like it is going to be a straight crime drama with a backdrop of an aloof alien race, but there is far more depth. You do not always get this number of layers in a story, never mind a graphic novel, so Runberg deserves high praise for managing to fit the ideas onto the page. 

The main character is Smoothbore, a cold assassin, assigned to kill three poor people. He goes about the task with the lack of compassion he is famed for, but the book is more than just a series of deaths. The narrative jumps back and forth through Smoothbore’s life. We begin to understand his motivations and as the story progresses you begin to comprehend that is personality may have a major effect on how our human race gets to live in the future. 

Smoothbore’s tale is rich but is only part of the story. We also get to meet some of the citizens of another Earth. Who are these people and why they threatening to colonise the Earth? The book is all about not deciding your opinion on first impressions. There is a reason for Smoothbore’s coldness as there is for the citizens of the other Earth wanting our land for their own. 

Benefit is a rich story told in comic form. Runberg has adapted Liu’s impressive story brilliantly and Monttló illustrations work perfectly. They are crisp, clear and have a dark Blade Runner like appeal to them. The story is grounded in the people and not the aliens. The drawings aid in this. The ships are often seen high in the sky in the background as the people down below struggle to survive. In all, a wonderful book to experience. 

Written on 17th October 2022 by .

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