Gaslamp Fantasy

Review: The Etched City

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Review: The Etched City

My random pick for a book review this week is the lovely Steampunk story from 2004. And by lovely, I mean strange. Really strange. And by story, I mean a collection of things that happen in a roughly linear timeframe to characters who don’t really have a concrete motivation and you’re not entirely sure what happens to them by the end.

Come to think of it, this isn’t really a Steampunk book either. Gaslamp fantasy, maybe, but set on a different world where all the plants and animals are the same, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not this really meshes with history and the author didn’t have to make up any new life forms.

The Etched City is K.J. Bishop’s first (and so far only) novel. The press release compared it to the works of China Mieville; I can’t really say I agree, but it certainly is the kind of fascinating writing that I can just fall into for days at a time, even if I’m not always one hundred percent sure I know what’s going on.

Read On

Review: Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle

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Review: Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle

With the nights getting longer and the weather getting colder, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a little comfort reading. Another helping of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius? Thanks, don’t mind if I do!

In this latest novelization, Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, Agatha has arrived at the town of Mechanicsburg, and she has a lot to deal with. She has to avoid capture by Baron Wulfenbach, stop the evil disembodied spirit of her mother from taking over her mind, protect her loyal companions (including her possible love-interest Gil, the son of the aforementioned Baron Wulfenbach), claim her inheritance as the long-lost daughter of Bill Heterodyne, and thwart the schemes of an imposter, all while retaking and repairing her family’s ancestral home, Castle Heterodyne.

Also? The castle itself is alive. And insane. Read On

Review: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess

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Review: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess

How do you know when someone is a Spark?

The answer is when they create something too mad to ignore.

The adventures of Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius, continues! In this installment, Agatha finds herself on the run from the diabolical Baron Wulfenbach, and his lovelorn son, Prince Gilgamesh. Needing to travel unnoticed through the Wastelands, Agatha and her companion Krosp (The Emperor Of All Cats) join a traveling circus that specializes in Heterodyne shows – dramatizations of the exploits of Bill and Barry Heterodyne. Ironic, considering that Agatha is secretly the long-lost heir to the Heterodyne Family.

And if you think all of that sounds a little crazy, just wait until you get to the scientist who’s scientific breakthrough involves pies.

This is the second novelization of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s award-winning Girl Genius series. The first book was a pure madcap adventure, and the format gave the Foglio’s the opportunity to add tons of extra details and backstories, as well as plenty of clever comments, random trivia, and snarky asides. All in all it was a hell of a lot of fun to read.

The second book is, and I know this is a bold statement here, even better than the first.

Read On

Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

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Review: Agatha H and the Airship City

Phil and Kaja Foglio’s gaslamp fantasy series Girl Genius is set in a world of automatons and dirigibles, tyrants and heroes, and stories of the famous adventurers, The Heterodyne Boys. It’s a world where a small portion of the population are Sparks, geniuses born with the ability to invent death rays and revenants and robots capable of leveling cities, but usually without the common sense to determine when building something like that is a fantastically bad idea. 

Into all this comes Agatha Clay, a bumbling college student with a lot of big ideas, and a track record of creating things that either fall to pieces or explode. Sometimes both. Nothing she makes ever works, at least until the day the locket she’s been told to never take off is stolen. Suddenly Agatha finds herself a hostage aboard a tyrant’s city-sized dirigible, Castle Wulfenbach, surrounded by the brightest and maddest of the Empire, and building actual working inventions in her sleep. And all that’s before she finds out that she is somehow the long-lost heir to the Heterodyne Family.

The ongoing Girl Genius comic series first started in 2001, and has since won the Hugo Award three times for Best Graphic Story; it most likely would have kept on winning if the Foglios hadn’t withdrawn the series from the competition so they could give other artists a chance. In 2011 the Foglios released the first of the novelized versions of the ongoing story, Agatha H and the Airship City. The book retells the story from the graphic novel, with some interesting additions that can give readers a little more back story about the characters and world that the original version may have missed.

Read On

The Twelve Days (Years?) of Books

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The Twelve Days (Years?) of Books

This got started when I wondered if you could do a “Twelve Days of Christmas” list with books and graphic novels. Turns out you can, if you play a little fast and loose with the rules.

Here then is a list of some of my favorite books and series, in case you were looking for a reading list for next year. And the year after that. And…well, as near as my limited math can figure, if you read six of these a year, you’re good for the next twelve years. You’re welcome.

Read On