More Books: Foglio, Broaddus, and Korogodski

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.