I can't quite believe that actually made it onto the back cover, that's up there with that volume of Blade of the Immortal that actually said "several major story lines [are] finally beginning to dovetail[...] is Samura's epic study on revenge and survival beginning to wind its way toward a massive, final confrontation?"
They are right, though. The first volume of Knights of Sidonia very much reads like Tsutomu "Blame!, Biomega" Nihei thinking "Hmm, what do normal people like to read? I'll try that," but his attempts to add light comedy to his usual hyperviolence are still surreally awkward and weird because it's still written in his completely affectless style and filled with grotesquerie. It's honestly not all that far off from that Blame! High School gag he did where all the gnarled silicon monsters were wearing sailor suits and giving each other love letters.
"Teenage mecha pilots vs giant monsters" is a pretty well-worn premise (though I actually can't think of too many manga, it's usually anime), so much so that I won't even go into the plot, but again, since this is a Nihei book, this first volume doesn't really establish anything so much as just hint at it. Our main character is an alleged regular human in a world full of genetically advanced superpeople, who still seems to have the insanely high pain threshold and healing speed of all Nihei heroes (that Wolverine story really was the perfect choice for him, wasn't it? Too bad it ended up so dull), which is excellent because even before he gets inside the giant robot he is surrounded with constant threats to life and limb. His constant culture shock reminded me of The Forever War, though Nihei's trademark understatement means it doesn't amount to more than the occasional sweatdrop as all the mean posthumans in pilot school make fun of him for still needing to eat and excrete regularly, and he accidentally wanders into the girls'
It's really hard to decide what to make of this book, largely because the goofy school antics are depicted in the same abrupt and tonally detached manner as the shocking violence they're constantly juxtaposed against. Knights of Sidonia may be more approachable than Nihei's normal inscrutable action epics, but it's still pretty far afield from normal, it has that same outsider art quality as Mysterious Girlfriend X. I wouldn't call it conventionally "good" but I did enjoy its weird, hilarious awkwardness in the same way I do a David Lynch movie. I feel compelled to continue.