Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Fogli
by Tom Bolenbaugh
Massive, heavily armed dirigibles cruise through the skies, clockwork war machines lurch across the landscape, unholy creations of science gone wrong prowl the shadows, and the mad scientists behind it all fight for control of all Europe. Thrust into the middle of this chaotic world of political intrigue is the young woman Agatha Heterodyne, who must struggle to maintain control of her own destiny. This is the subject of the new novel Agatha H and the Airship City, based on the Hugo award-winning web comic, Girl Genius, created by Phil and Kaja Foglio.
I’ve been a fan of Girl Genius for many years. The story is intricate and tightly written, the artwork is superb, and the writing is intelligent, witty, creative, compelling, and always entertaining. The Foglios have a gift for creating engaging characters and the world of Girl Genius is rich, complete, and filled with
enough mad science to delight Jules Verne. With Agatha H and the Airship City, the Foglios have made a novel from the first major story arc in the comic.
The novel introduces us to Agatha Clay, the adopted daughter of Adam and Lilith, a pair intelligent and relatively normal-looking constructed humans who raised Agatha after the mysterious disappearance of her parents. Her only other family, her uncle Barry, has also been missing for many years by the time the story begins. Agatha is a student and laboratory assistant at Transylvania Polygnostic University, where she works for Doctor Beetle, the stern ruler of the city and a mad scientist of no small skill. In the world of Girl Genius, mad science is a super power born into a select few individuals, known as sparks. Sparks are notoriously unstable people, and their creations are often dangerous to themselves and everyone around them. However some are able to remain mostly stable, and these individuals become some of the most powerful people in Europe.
Agatha dreams of having the spark, but her creations always fail. That is, until the locket given to her by her uncle Barry is stolen from her and gradually her mind begins to clear. At first her creations are crude and she is only able to invent when she sleeps, which accidentally leads her to being captured by Baron Wulfenbach, a powerful spark who maintains order throughout Europe through his
powerful military and ruthlessness against those who oppose him. The Baron moves her to his castle, the enormous zeppelin known as Castle Wulfenbach, and it is here that the secrets of Agatha’s background begin to unravel.
Agatha learns that she is a lost heir to the Heterodyne family, one of the most powerful families of sparks in the history of the world. The last two known Heterodynes were the brothers Barry, Agatha’s uncle, and William, her father, who the stories say disappeared 16 years ago. The Heterodyne Boys were folk heroes, traveling the world making things safer for the common people, and were well loved by everyone. However the legend of her family makes her a powerful threat to the status quo, and Agatha has to fight to maintain her freedom while surrounded by those who seek to control or destroy her. Along the way she meets a colorful cast of characters including the insane Othar Tryggvassen (Gentleman Hero), the mutant soldiers known as the Jaggermonsters, the psycopathic Bangladesh DuPree, the baron’s son Gilgamesh, and Krosp I, Emperor of Cats.
Converting a graphical story to a novel is no cialis simple task, but the Foglios have done a wonderful job. All the biting wit, the awkward circumstances, and the fast paced adventure from the comic can be found in the novel. Some ideas come through even more clearly, thanks to the longer prose form. The characters have translated well into the novel, retaining the distinctive voices and flair they have in the web comic. The writing is crisp and the pacing is swift, rarely giving the reader a moment to pause before the next adventure comes crashing down on Agatha.
Agatha H and the Airship City is a delightful read. If you are new to the world of Girl Genius, this is a great introduction and will leave you wanting more. If you are a longtime fan of the comic, then the novel is an excellent way to revisit the early chapters of the story and see it in a new light. I found myself finishing chapters of the novel and then jumping online to re-read the comic versions of what I’d just read. If you have only recently begun reading the Girl Genius web comic, then you may not be ready to read the novel version of what you’ve just read. However, get the book anyway, because by the time you’ve gotten caught up with the comic you’ll be ready to revisit the story through the novel.
You can order your own copy of Agatha H and the Airship City by clicking on the link.