Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: "Joe Golem and the Drowning City"

I read books! I actually read a lot of books, sometimes. When I'm not distracted by "Jacques and Julia: Cooking at Home."

For my birthday, I read "Joe Golem and the Drowning City" by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden. I meant to just start reading it, but suddenly it was 1 am and I was pretty much done with it.

This is a short book, under 300 pages, I believe. The illustrations are by Mike Mignola, and have that very characteristic blocky and evocative style. The book itself is a fusion of eldritch horror, steampunk, adventure and mystery, starring a plucky young girl, a man who may or may not have once been a witch-hunting golem and a delightfully rendered Sherlock Holmes analogue. It also has a mad genius with a host of appropriately creepy henchcreatures.

One of the most intriguing elements of the book was the city itself. This is a story set in a world where parts of New York are underwater, and the character of the city permeates every page. It's a clever commentary on social strata as well as a wonderfully rich setting for a story with otherworldly elements matched with very relatable human relationships.

The mood isn't as dark or as skin-crawling as Lovecraft, but it's also not as (frankly) boring and overwritten as Lovecraft. I love him, but come on. The genius of Lovecraft is in how the tension and the dread stack with every story you read. Read one, and you go "eh, is this it?" Read two and you go "Hey, I'm going to turn this light on, okay?" Keep reading and suddenly you're very, very nervous and maybe you WOULD like a cup of coffee, thank you...and maybe you will never be sleeping again! Coffee and the Home Shopping Network's selection of faceted gem packets for everyone!

"Joe Golem and the Drowning City" is exciting and creepy, but in a fun way. The pace is lively and the writing engaging. While younger children might find it to be too intense, it's the kind of thing that precocious horror enthusiasts will love. It's also a very fun read for adults, and showcases some marvelous writing and some brief glimpses of ancient cyclopean monster-gods.

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