Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City

I've talked about Girl Genius before. It's an online comic that I read. And I make sure to grab the bound graphic novels when they come out. Number 10 came out at the beginning of the month. They got at least two Hugos. Maybe three. They kinda blur together. Then they put out a book. I was dubious about the book. But when plundering a Borders I found a copy and grabbed it. Now I'm glad I did.

If you want to know the story then you need to go to their website and start reading from the beginning. This novel covers the first three graphic novels. Many reviewers have said that they were told for years to check it out, but balked because they don't read comic books. Then they read the book and were hooked. They've since gone through the complete archives. So trust me.

When adapting a movie to a book it's usually not the person who wrote the movie who is writing the book. The author has to work with the movie, and maybe the script as it was before scenes were dropped. Then they have to start padding it out with their own stuff. It rarely works out well. But this is a novel written by the people who created the original story. They know what had to be left out. They know the smells and sounds that didn't convey well to cartoon. They know exactly what an expression is supposed to convey. And they finally got to express some of those little bits that just couldn't go in to the story before.

The prologue, for instance, tells of the Heterodyne Boys in one of their untold stories. About sitting in a swamp, Bill being brilliant but uncommunicative, Barry watching the sky for a predicted attack by one of The Other's Hive Engines. The city of Beetlesburg, only touched on in the comic, gets fleshed out nicely, complete with a touring Jägermonster and Agatha's state of mind before we even get to the first page of the comic story. And then a story that consists of a page or two in the comic is given due respect and fleshed out to be made more understandable. Except, of course, for the bit that we're not to understand for many books still to come.

Whether you're a fan of the comics or not I highly recommend this book. Judging from what I've seen called Young Adult lately I'd say this book totally qualifies. It tells a good story quite clearly and entertainingly while not getting into subject matter that some might think of as NSFW while still being a book that adults can totally enjoy.

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Now, Phil and Kaja Foglio, if you happen to be reading this, I have some casting suggestions for when this gets made into movies or, more appropriately, a radio programme.

Jürgen Prochnow (Dune, Das Boot) should play Baron Klaus Wulfenbach.
Patrick Warburton (The Tick) would do a great job as Othar Tryggvassen: Gentleman Adventurer.
Brian Blessed (Brian Blessed) needs to be one of the Jägermonster Generals. Him, John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings), and maybe Peter Jurasik (Babylon 5). Peter Jurasik might need to be used as another Jägermonster just so we can keep him around and hear a lot of him.
I can see Rosario Dawson (Sin City) as the psychotic pirate Bangladesh DuPree.
For Krosp the cat I kept coming back to Kelsey Grammer (X-Men 3). I want to give him dignity, but a slight lisp. He shouldn't come off all Muppetish. More Yoda and less Snarf.
You two should do nicely as Punch and Judy. I mean being Agatha's parents and all. If not that then Kaja as Von Pinn.
Moloch never gelled in my head. Same with Gilgamesh. They're just not enough of a caricature for a voice or a face to come to mind.
Give me a time machine and I'd cast Carrie Fisher as Agatha. Then I'm gonna cast Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman just because it was the role she was born for.

Seriously though, talk to the BBC. You know this'd be a great radio programme.

And Danny DeVito as Dr Beetle.

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