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Agatha H. and the Airship City (Girl Genius) Paperback – August 1, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The Hugo Award-winning Foglios (Girl Genius) present the first three volumes of their popular gaslight fantasy comic in novelized form, maintaining the zany energy, witty repartee, creative characterization, and innovative world-building of the original. Agatha Clay is a university lab assistant in a world filled with madboy scientists, dangerous automata, and not quite human soldiers with silly Germanic accents. She soon finds herself a pawn in political power struggles when her locket is stolen and she is taken hostage on the airship of the powerful Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. While trying to stay alive long enough to discover the truth, she begins to discover her personal history and genius talents of her own. This version keeps closely to the original plot, and uses most of the original dialogue, but also provides expanded scenes and character interiority that will delight regular fans of the series. Although this book is likely not the best way to experience the Foglios' talent for the first time, and cannot do justice to the sheer buxomness of its main character, it is entirely comprehensible and enjoyable on its own without its comic counterparts. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Phil and Kaja Foglioare the cocreators of the Hugo, Eagle, and Eisner Award&nominated webcomicGirl Genius. The two have contributed artwork to the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering and have collaborated on the gaming comic stripWhat&s New with Phil & Dixie.
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Top customer reviews
This book hit the spot!!! I have been skim-ditching, it's a horrible habit (one I am trying to wean from and sort of my thing lately), like crazy which led to my frustration levels building exponentially with every discarded book found littering my bedroom floor. I had been insatiable for a book...not just ANY book mind you..which book you ask?? I had no clue...a common problem no doubt but a catastrophe for a bibliophile on the hunt for a no named, non classified genre-less gem...searching (in vain) for too many weeks to be healthy. Did it have to be the motherload of all literature, the Holy Grail? Nope, just something to scratch a very ill placed itch. Agatha H and the Airship City had been sitting on my ereader for SOO long I had to scroll a ridiculous amount of times to even locate it again after relegating its name to longterm memory storage (cranially that is)..anywho, it was 2am and I came across Agatha and thought that I'd throw a Hail Mary and sample a bit. A bit turned into a bunch which turned into a marathon read...just what I needed...go figure. Who knew a Steampunk Bizaro- Europe, action packed, light hearted, Romance lite, compendium (previously a graphic novel) populated by Evil (?) Geniuses, madboy tinkerers, sentient bots (revavants), talking animals, LOADS of phenotypically varied chimera, air pirates and more (much much more) could be the answer? I really love the Steampunk genre BUT, and that's a big but, only when it is done right. A lot of books claim to be Steampunk and mention nary a doodad, robot, corseted Tinkerer or anything remotely Punkish. This was just plain old fashioned fun. It felt like olden times: reading with the blanket over my head as to not disturb, book hooked you right in the beginning, the pages and subsequent chapters flew by at breakneck speed, there were always an abundance of twists and turns (though a bunch being a tad too easily forseen) all wrapped up neatly with a satisfyingly succinct (sometimes saccharine sweet) conclusion. There are too many things I adored about this book but I do have a favorite concept and a warm fuzzy feeling for an entire group. My favorite concept is the Spark...that oomph which resides in each mad Genius beseeching/demanding them to build, create, beget and bring forth Newness and Life into a world where previously there was none...and at times after there was some but that's a whole other bag of technicolored -technomancy. My favorite group is the Jagers who are "monsters" who, quite humorously, pretend to be a lot dimmer than they actually are and the outcome is very amusing. They speak in a unique (yet endearing) slang. They take an instant liking to and are suspiciously protective of our kick @$$ (though reluctant at first) female heroine. It is told from varying POVs which I find tricky at times but thought Phil and Kaja Foglio pulled off nicely.
All this and 2 subsequent books already out for instant gratification, what more could you want from a 2am Hail Mary?? Be advised: this is set to be a 10 book series. So if you are of the sect who do not start a book unless the entire series is completed and available you might want to wait awhile before delving into this one.
This is a master work of the steampunk genre. The world is so vibrant, and there's not only so much detail and well-thought-through explanation (never a "as you know" type of moment) and so many briefly mentioned but never explained things about the world at large. There's references made to different power structures in France and England, which become important later in the series, but here are just asides in the conversation. Even if you don't read the comics, you'll do fine in reading this book. The Foglios explain everything quite well, and, in fact, since it's pure prose, sometimes better than in the comics.
I think the thing I like most is that there's never a "not like other girls" moment. The Spark doesn't discriminate by sex, so no one is surprised when female Sparks like Agatha begin building a death ray. They're often referred to as "Mad Boys" in the book, but that's more the grammatical thing of multi-gender groups defaulting to male. There is a little casual sexism to the world, but it never becomes necessary to bad-mouth other women's abilities in order to make Agatha seem more interesting.
So, if you get a chance, I recommend the audiobook most of all, but the book itself is still great. Do it.
This volume covers the story we met in the first three volumes of the graphic story: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank, Agatha Heterodyne and the Airship City, and Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine.
Phil Foglio has stated in interviews that one part of the Girl Genius story is what happens to legends over time. The legends about Agatha's parents and uncle have grown with time; should we not expect the same of the legends about Agatha? In fact, there are some details changed and snippets of story added. A prologue tantalizes with glimpses of history and historical characters and perturbs the historical timeline developed by fans, hinting at clues or vital constraints. Other changes deepen and richen the character development without, so far as I can tell, damaging the story. We learn a few new things and are reminded of some old ones. Some lines of fan speculation are cut off, leaving us to focus on better questions.
The Girl Genius story is all about the backstory. Bit by bit through the graphic novels we've gotten history, found questions in it, and gotten answers that have provided fascinating and bigger questions. That essential story dimension does not change.
The Foglio humor still glows. Much of it revolves around the Jaegermonsters. If you are a fan, you probably know that the Jaegermonsters were a late addition; Phil was already drawing the comic books in which the first part of the story appeared when they were invented. By now they are deeply woven through both story and backstory. Among their narrative duties, they serve as clowns whose antics conceal both foreshadowing and backstory. A few new incidents near the start of the novel had me laughing out loud. (Clowns or not, they are capable of noble action and sacrifice.)
Is this as good a novel as the graphic story is a graphic story? No, it is not. That's not bad news: the graphic story's artwork, pacing, and working out of story details are so good that it would be a wonder if the novel could match it. The most apparent weakness is that details of the milieu that can be background in graphic form must be explained, and sometimes the explanation pauses the story for detail that might better be given elsewhere. This is a matter of technique and a basic problem for all SF&F writing, and unless the Foglios choose not to improve (for the sake of style, perhaps) they surely will.
It is possible that writing this novel required the Foglios to make another pass over their story notes. The overall plot and the key characters were written before the first published page was drawn, promising a tightly woven story. Phil and Kaja Foglio have delivered magnificently on that promise. This novel may help them continue to do so.
If you want the primary source for the Girl Genius story, continue to buy the graphic novels and read the eponymous web site. That's what they are for. If you are already a fan of the story, or cannot bear the long graphic form, then buy this book. But if you skip the graphic novels, you are missing an awful lot of richness, depth, and fun.