Family Reads: The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

 Welcome to September’s Family Reads! Family Reads is a monthly feature where my mom, dad or sister and I read and discuss a book. Posts with a link-up go live around the last Sunday of each month, so feel free to grab the banner and join in however you like.

Reno: Reunited! This month, my sister and I conducted the first side-by-side Family Reads. We’re shaking things up with a graphic novel, selected because we couldn’t finish our first choice on time now that we’re once again busy with school and work…Sister recommended this one to me. Scott Snyder’s name on it piqued my interest, as I was only familiar with his work on Batman, which I enjoyed.

Sister: Once again, I was looking through the graphic novels section at work (my usual method for discovering new books!) and I stumbled across this one. I liked the art and the back description sounded really cool.

Sister gives this book 4 stars and I give it 3 stars. A graphic novel turned out to be a great choice for our first read with us living under the same roof because we could look at the art, flip through the book and reread parts together. This book turned out to be similar to Annihilation in that we didn’t really know what it was all about! You’ll get more out of this discussion if you’ve read the book (spoilers ahead!). Here is our discussion on the art style, Lee + Leeward, and the somewhat confounding conclusion.

On the art:

Sister: I thought the layout demonstrated creative but sometimes confusing.
Reno: Yeah, the panelling around when Leeward confronts the Governess towards the end was difficult for me to follow.
Sister: I loved the colouring, though.
Reno: I preferred the colours for the first half, although I think both halves were coloured to suit the story. I liked the darker colours and the deep blues. There were more warm hues in the second half, but I personally like my comics to be dark like grim Batman.

On the Lees:

Reno: I liked the first part more. Archer was my favourite character.
Sister: Same here. I feel like we had more time with her, got to know her personally a bit better, whereas I felt we didn’t know a lot about Leeward because she was too busy doing things.
Reno: Being introduced to Leeward, the first thing I thought was, “Why the name?” I think there’s more to her than was made clear in the story…
Sister: She’s totally a descendant of Archer’s! She even uses eye drops.
Reno: Yeah, and I think there was further elaboration near the end that I didn’t pick up on.

On the conclusion: 

Sister: I generally liked the comic and would reread it for that reason, but mostly I’d read it to clarify the ending.
Reno: Yeah, I think I had the same experience as you. I was pulled into reading, the story was clipping along, then I came to this info dump that felt like “bam bam bam bam everything explained” and I was left wondering “Wait…” What did you think was explained at the end?
Sister: …I don’t know. It’s kind of like…the Mers… they have this heaven but it’s not heaven and they’re showing it to people…uh, I don’t know, let’s be real, I’m not sure.
Reno: Okay, I don’t understand that part either, haha, so let’s look at the bigger picture. I think…humans are aliens – that much I got. And they spread their seed, sometimes they grow, sometimes they don’t, but they forget about it because their tears are weird. I don’t know if the Mers were original creatures or a false start of humanity.
Sister: Lee Archer’s explanation right at the beginning (about Mers being humans) confused me because I really liked and believe that explanation, so it was hard for me to let go of that idea – to accept that it wasn’t fact and was just one character’s opinion.
Reno: That’s another thing I wasn’t sure about. Are the Mers intelligent creatures? Why do they want to destroy us all the time? Is it because we invaded their homeland? Why are they ‘collecting’ people? I think it was explained but I didn’t get it…I also don’t get why the government is evil. I know the government is always ‘evil’ but usually there’s a ‘reason’ why.
Sister: I think the government thinks that pursuing the broadcast will lead to trouble from stirring up whatever’s down below.
Reno: I thought the story was great until we got to the end and I didn’t know what was happening… Probably we should have re-read the ending before this chat!
Sister: So Archer has just been floating in this dark space for 200 years with other…somethings. People? I think some of the reason that part was hard to understand was because Leeward was taken to the ship and the storytelling jumps between when Leeward was with Archer and when she’s presently on the ship. 
*We finally decide to go over the conclusion together. After a close re-reading of Archer’s conversation with Leeward, here is what we think was explained.*
Seeds (something akin to God, rather than sent out by humans) scatter across the universe. Sometimes humans grow from those seeds. Humans began to grow on Earth, already home to Mers. (This part we’re not sure about – we’re not certain what ‘grows’ and whether Mers were already there or were a false start to humans.) Humans being humans destroyed the more developed Mers, leaving only a more ‘primitive’ form. Humans cry to forget the terrible thing they did, but the Mers don’t want to let humans forget. When humans were on the verge of completely forgetting, the Mers shook them up, as if to say “Hey, we’re STILL here, remember!”

After all that discussion and reviewing, we still felt we only understood a part of what we were meant to, if we understood that at all! This contrasts to our experience with Annihilation, where we didn’t feel like we were meant to understand anything.  Have you read The Wake? Did you find it as confusing as we did, or were we missing something? If you’ve written a Family Reads post this month, add your link here.