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I have three books to talk about today, starting with the Girl Genius omnibus from Tor: Agatha Awakens [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

So here’s the thing. Girl Genius is a Hugo-winning webcomic, and the entire archive is available online. And I’ve tried several times to read it … and was never able to get into it. However, when Tor’s review copy showed up in the mail, I devoured the entire book in a day and a half.

I think the full-color artwork, with all its detail, was just too much for me to read online. But when packaged in such a gorgeous hardcover book, it all works. It’s a fun steampunk adventure with kick-butt men and women, an interesting world, and a pretty fast-moving plot. I could have done without quite as much Agatha-in-her-underwear in the beginning, but it didn’t feel overly gratuitous.

The book starts with the very first strip, presenting Agatha’s origin as a failed student who lacks the “spark” that allows her to invent and create … or does she? (Really obvious spoiler alert: yeah, she’s got the spark, and she soon creates some kick-ass stuff.)

You learn a lot in those packed panels, and the book ends in a good spot: with some closure, but leaving you hungry to find out what comes next. Thank you Tor for shooting this one my way!


Next up is King Maker [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Maurice Broaddus. The official summary states:

The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. Broaddus’ debut is a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything you’ve ever read.

I stopped reading this one after chapter four. Not because it was bad, and not because of any problem with the writing — Broaddus is a very good writer — but because it wasn’t the kind of book I wanted to read. There’s a scene where a snitch is tortured and then killed in front of her children. That’s the point where I set the book down and didn’t pick it back up.

There are things I liked about what I read. I liked King James White’s character a lot, and wanted to see him evolve into the Arthur character. Merle and his pet squirrel provide some great humor. But in the end, I couldn’t enjoy what I was reading.

If you’re into a grittier modern-day retelling of the Camelot myth and you’ve got a higher tolerance for violence than I do, I’d recommend checking it out. There’s a sample chapter on the Angry Robot site.


Finally, I want to talk about Pink Noise [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Leonid Korogodski.

Let me start by saying the physical book is gorgeous. Hardcover with glossy pages, internal black and white illustrations by Guddah, a pink bookmark ribbon, pink dropcaps at the start of each section … a lot of time and care went into designing this book. (This is also reflected in the price: $25 for a 190 page hardcover. However, it’s also available as an e-book for around $5.)

Like King Maker, this is a book that takes me outside of what I usually read. It’s post-singularity science fiction about a posthuman brain doctor named Nathi who’s brought in to save a comatose girl on Mars, which he does by essentially splicing his own mind into her brain. In her, he discovers his own enslavement and a chance at freedom.

Because I’m not well-read in this kind of fiction, I don’t know that I have the vocabulary to really talk about it. And I’m sure there were things I missed.

It took me a few chapters to really get into the story, but once I did, I found it fascinating. Korogodski has done a great deal of research, and he creates a convincing world of virtual beings and warfare. The worldbuilding is incredibly rich, and there were plenty of, “Hey, that’s so cool!” moments, which is one of the things I read SF for.

At the end, there are about 60 pages of Korogodski’s notes and references.

You can read a sample at his website.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
My dear departed husband used to think I was nutzoid because we'd go to a record shop, and while he was combing the bins for musical treasures, I was going through the albums one by one looking at the cover art. Back then, there wasn't the internet with its (no doubt) several web sites devoted to the album cover art form, to point at to legitimize my interest.

I also enjoy reading book and film reviews, just for themselves - well, when they are good.

Which is a roundabout way of saying, yours are, consistently. And thanks for that!

Also: "it didn’t feel overly gratuitous" - what, it was just the right amount of gratuity? Thanks for the belly laugh of the morning, for that one.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you! The reviews tend to get far fewer comments than my other posts, so it's good to know people appreciate 'em.

"what, it was just the right amount of gratuity?"

Heh :-) It definitely wasn't comic book gratuitous, and it did fit with the plot. Mostly, it just felt like a gag that got played out one time too many.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tip--all those look really interesting to me! (I do collect Arthurian fiction, non-fiction, and pretty much everything else related I can get my hands on, too.)
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Excellent! King Maker was one of those really frustrating "I wanted to like this!" books, so it makes me happy if I can help it get into the hands of people who will enjoy it.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
I know how that goes--I've run into several books that fit that category recently. Most annoying when that happens!
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
I love Maurice Broaddus's bio: http://mauricebroaddus.com/?page_id=13
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
I hadn't seen that, thank you. That's wonderful.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
Pink Noise sounds interesting! I'm going to check it out. Thank you.

And Girl Genius is amazing. I'm glad there is another convert to its amazingness.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I could have done without quite as much Agatha-in-her-underwear in the beginning

The hell you say.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
Your icon seems especially appropriate for this comment :-)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 3rd, 2012 08:04 pm (UTC)
It didn't feel skeevy to me; there really was a legitimate plot reason here. Mostly, it just felt like it got played out one too many times, if that makes sense.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
I'll have to give the Girl Genius folio a look; I haven't been able to get into the online version either. In regards to underwear... considering some of their other work is XXXenophile, I'm not to surprised at the fan service.

I'd like to recommend Erfworld, if you're not already reading it. What happens to a table top war/RPG gamer who's thrust into a world that obeys the rules of a turn based strategy game? It also deals with things like free will, fate, honor, and duty. Time named it one of their top 10 graphic novels a few years ago.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
With a title like Girl Genius, you'd hope that she has the spark. Otherwise, who else are they talking about? ;-)

Thanks for the reviews, Jim.
Mar. 3rd, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC)
Well, I did say it was a really obvious spoiler :-)

Though there's something to be said for a protagonist who doesn't have any "special" powers and has to compete with everyone else who does...
Mar. 3rd, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
Isn't that the premise of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera?
Mar. 4th, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Thx for posting this...
Mar. 4th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
I didn't read Girl Genius until recently and I love it. I love watching Agatha grow and come into her authority and her powers. And there are a ton of really great characters. I'm amused that you mentioned a "fast-moving plot". Further into the series I feel like the plot has a tendancy to get bogged down with Murphy's Law (what can go wrong...), and similarly, spending time with lots of characters means the overall plot doesn't move forward quickly. Occasionally that frustrates me, but the flip side is that the authors have built this immersive world with layers and details and characters that have vast complex histories and I love that. The meat of it is so good that I can overlook the frustration. And I agree, I have a much easier time reading it in book format than on the computer screen.
Mar. 4th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
The slower/messier plot kind of makes sense for a series like this that continues to grow and add more of the world and characters.
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
Do you read it online a bit at a time, or in the book formats? I found some of the bits that seemed super-slow when I read the online strips every couple of weeks went much faster in a single gulp.
Mar. 5th, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
I read it in book format through Volume 8 (which was all my library had) and the remainder online from Volume 9 through current. I got caught up roughly two weeks ago, so I've read pretty much the entire thing in one gulp! I agree that the slower parts move faster when you can read them all at once, but I still feel that the overall plot moves slowly. The high number of characters alone dictates a slow pace, and then there's everything else the authors throw in. It's brilliant stuff and I love it, but sometimes I feel like the plot threads are pooling outwards instead of moving forward.
Mar. 4th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
Dare I hope this means that Tor will be coming out with subsequent compendia of Girl Genius? I have been frustrated because after the first three-in-one volume, all you can get in print are the expensive individual chapters. My brain understands the reason for that cost, but my budget is not that flexible.

Reading online does not thrill me. I really hope the rest of the series will be similarly published in budget-sensitive editions.
Mar. 4th, 2012 09:20 pm (UTC)
I'm assuming so. This one only just came out, so as long as it does well, I imagine they'll put out additional volumes.
Mar. 6th, 2012 04:51 am (UTC)
I'd like to get the Girl Genius omnibus/compendia as well. I loved the novelisation of the first 3 books that came out last year and I even got Phil to sign my copy at Worldcon. Like you, Jim, I just can't read them online, but in graphic novel form, definitely.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

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