Friday, March 30, 2012

Agatha H and the Airship City - Phil and Kaja Foglio

2011; 264 pages.  New Author(s) ? : Yes.  Genre : Webcomic Action; Gas Lamp Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½/10.

    What's the matter with Agatha Clay?  Despite trying her hardest, she's the worst student at Transylvania Polygnostic University.  If you gave her two pieces of wood and a tube of glue, I'm still sure whatever she'd make would fall apart.

    But Agatha's life is about to get upheaved.  Baron Klaus Wulfenbach is going to forcibly take over Beetleburg, where TPU is located.  And take some "sparks" as hostages back to Castle Wulfenbach, which is really a giant dirigible.  Now what possible havoc could one girl wreak upon a great big airship?

What's To Like...
    AH&TAC is a novelization of a webcomic called Girl Genius, (the link is here) which has won all sorts of awards - Hugos, Eisners, Squiddlys, etc.  The book is a faithful rendering of the first three episodes of the webcomic.  As such, you get lots of action right away and all the way thru.

    The characters are ...well... comic, but there is a surprising depth to them.  Agatha has her foibles, and the bad guys all have redeeming traits.  Indeed, it is hard to tell exactly who's wearing the black hats and who's wearing the white ones.  Agatha is a strong female lead, but that doesn't mean the males in the story are pansies.

    There is some romance (at this point, mostly hinted at), and a little bit of violence (rather mild), but no sex or "adult situations".  And it's a steampunk setting.

Kewlest New Word...
Gravitas : dignity, solemnity, or seriousness in manner.

    "Fuel here.  Spark here.  Main shaft.  Boosters."
    "Interesting.  Should this be loose?"
     "Yes, it's a balance arm."
    Agatha glared at him.  "A balance arm?  You're wasting space in a flying machine with a balance arm?"
    "Well... yes, you still need -"
    Agatha pushed him aside and reached into the engine compartment.  A quick wrench and the small device was flung out into space, where it hung in front of Gil's face.
    "And this!"  Another part was ripped loose.  "This is a heat pump!  Superfluous!"  (pg. 96; 36% on the Kindle)

    "Fine.  So what you're telling me is that you - Gilgamesh Wulfenbach - the person next in line to the despotic, iron-fisted rule of the Wulfenbach Empire - have no deadly, powerful weapons lying around whatsoever!  That's just great!  What kind of an Evil Overlord are you going to be, anyway?"
    "Apparently a better one than I'd thought," Gil said, suddenly thoughtful.  (pg. 214; 82% on the Kindle)

Kindle Details...
    The Kindle version of Agatha Clay and the Airship City is available at Amazon for $7.99, although it was a free download for a limited time when I ran across it.  It isn't available at the Mesa library, but the Phoenix Library has several "real" copies, and a number of books with the comic themselves.  Most of these were available when I checked.

Adventure.  Romance.  MAD SCIENCE!  (the Girl Genius motto)
    The neatest thing about AH&TAC is the "spark", which is a inherent talent for intense concentration (sometimes hereditary, but not always), which enables the person with it (also called a "spark") to create some remarkable inventions.

    It's not a super-power.  The only way Agatha will climb walls is if she applies herself and figures out how to make Velcro.  I think it is utterly kewl that the heroes here are Mad Scientists.  Kids reading AH&TAC will be inspired to become Chemists, Biologists, Mechanical Engineers, etc.   Not to ride magical ponies or get bit by radioactive spiders.

    8½ Stars.  I'd rate it higher, but the actual webcomic is even kewler than the book  And the novelization of Episodes 4-6 is due out in April.

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