Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Girl Genius, Mike Shevdon, and the Company of the Dead

A new batch of reviews posted to SFFWorld over the past week, two from Mark and one from Nila...

Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius comics have been the darling of the Internet for quite a few years. Tor recently bound up the first three issues into book form and Mark had a look Girl Genius Omnibus, Volume One: Agatha Awakens:

There are three issues in this omnibus edition. Issue One introduces us to the main characters and shows us the world Agatha lives in. When Agatha is mugged and has a brooch (that she must not lose) stolen, she comes to the attention of Baron Wulfenbach, and also gains the attentions of the Baron’s son, Gilgamesh (Gil). When banned from the University, Agatha ends up at the Airship City in Issue Two. Issue Three is where Agatha discovers her secret past and true identity.

The story here is great fun, and clearly plays on the traditional steampunk tropes with a great deal of humour and panache. There’s lots of big machines and strange laboratories, with masses of arcane power at work. The characters are imaginative and memorable, from the evil villain to the many mad scientists to Krosp, the bio-constructed talking cat. The drawing is fluid and detailed, and adeptly combines black and white drawings and shades of copper in its initial pages with vivid, vibrant colour, when Agatha is in the Airship City (in Issues Two and Three.)

The charm of Mike Shevdon’s The Courts of the Feyre is still high for Nila, she reviewed the third novel in the series, Strangeness and Charm:

… Niall Petersen … finds himself and his family tearing at each other throats. There are also all the other inmates of the special hospital that held the half-fey mongrels set loose on the world and Garvin, the head of the Court’s Warders, has given Niall the responsibility of bringing them all in before they upset the Human-Feyre treaty. If Niall doesn’t or can't do it, Garvin will send the other Warders and they won’t be as nice. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably kill the mongrels rather than deal with bringing them in. But all Niall wants to do is help them. …

This installment of the Courts of the Feyre series is a fine continuation of Niall Petersen’s story. Again, not as fast paced as the first in the series, and not as spectacular as the second (in my opinion), but I very much enjoyed Strangeness and Charm. Mr. Shevdon continues to show his readers fresh insights about his characters and his wonderful imagination manifests in the fey magic mixes with human blood to create interesting fey-mongrels.

Just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, Mark posted his review of The Company of the Dead by David Kowalski:

Like the Titanic itself, in terms of size this novel is a monster: 800+ pages of fairly small print and not for the faint-hearted.

Pleasingly though, it is a satisfyingly complex tale, one involving alternate history and time travel, with a touch of conspiracy theory and even romance. Considering this is a debut novel, it is quite daunting to see an author cover such a wide range of ideas. And yet, impressively, David manages to juggle these disparate elements into a book that entertains without lecturing.

Our tale here begins with events upon the original Titanic being changed, yet the ship still sinking. Flash forward to 2012 and the descendant of one of the original ship’s officers, John Jacob Lightholler is now the Captain of a new version of the Titanic, sailing across the Atlantic for a commemorative centennial service of the original journey. On Lightholler’s arrival to New York, we find him contacted by Joseph Kennedy, one of the descendants of the Kennedy family, who tells him that he has been honourably discharged from the Titanic, put back into British Naval service by King Edward IX of Britain and is being made to work with the Confederate Bureau of Investigation (CBI). At a time of emerging nuclear weapons Japan seems to be declaring war on Germany and the US. To avert global disaster Kennedy and his team must put the world on the time-track it should be. Lightholler finds himself part of that group that are to travel back in time and correct the minor changes to the past that have diverted history from its predetermined route.

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