Major kudos to Tom King for trying out something completely different; I'm just not convinced it worked. "A Once Crowded Sky" is essentially a meta-comic book. Stories within stories within stories, the novel is part gruesome action movie, part philosophical tract. It was clearly written by a man who love comic books, and who maybe is a little too smart for his own good. The topic is undoubtedly fascinating: what do comic books - with their unrealistic protagonists and simplistic depictions of good vs. evil - tell us about ourselves? King could have gone one of two ways with this: novelization and subtle discovery, or philosophical discussion. Instead, he does both, and the result is a bit of a mish-mash. Readers interested in the moral and religious implications of comic book worship will be put off by the action parts, which often last for pages; and readers wanting simply another comic book in novel form will be bored by the philosophical ramblings. What started as a fantastic idea with a great deal of imagination behind it becomes instead a lengthy exercise in determination.
Like I said, though, I appreciate King's effort to create something new. So many books seem to be endless reiterations on the same themes with the same language and the same plot. "A Once Crowded Sky" is anything but, and as such it's a welcome addition to modern science fiction. I just think it could have used a more heavy-handed editor to help steer King in one direction or another in order to create a more coherent finished work.