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Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

July 22nd, 2012 (09:27 am)
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Joe Golem and the Drowning City
by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

My Review
Steampunk + Christopher Golden + Mike Mignola = brilliant!

****
Fifty years ago, earthquakes shook Lower Manhattan, submerging the city and forever changing the landscape and livelihood of all who lived there. As the years passed, the gap between the classes widened: the wealthy live and thrive in Uptown, where they grow wealthier, as the poor people in submerged Downtown try desperately to survive in what is now known as the Drowning City.

It is in Downtown that aging magician Felix Orlov resides. His energetic and devoted assistant, 14-year-old Molly McHugh, lives the floor above him. Dark dreams, a seance, and an attack lead to Orlov's abduction and cause Molly to run away - and enlist the help of Simon Church, an investigator, and Joe Golem, the bodyguard to end all bodyguards.

Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola make me want to live in the Drowning City, to meet the wonderful characters they've created and help them defeat the monstrous villains. They've also offered up a short story, Joe Golem and the Copper Girl (see note below), but I still want more. Mignola's black-and-white illustrations are, as always, memorable. One only hopes that the movie, which is currently in development (see notes below), captures the spirit and intensity of this book. The submerged city, falling buildings, and fight scenes need to be Inception-level awesome on screen. This captivating story deserves all of that, and more.

If Hellboy were mixed with Eliot Spencer from Leverage and dressed in clothes from some classic Warren Beatty films, he might just be Joe Golem. Due to his size, stature, and strength, Joe's appearance often intimidates others, which can be useful in a physical confrontation but is not so helpful when he's trying to reach out and help the average citizen. Consider how he is described when Molly first sees him:

She looked up into cold gray eyes, sad but wise, set into a scarred, grizzled face. The newcomer had the solid, imposing build of an old-time boxer, or some back-alley legbreaker. [...] But he had a quiet, inner nobility Molly sensed instantly. Though he had no jacket or tie, his trousers were clean and pressed and his suspenders harkened back to an earlier era. In the first moment, she thought he might be fifty, but then decided he couldn't be much more than thirty. But it had been a rough thirty years, from the look of him. - Page 42, illustration on 43

- and a few pages later, on page 55:

But in spite of his size, he only looked kind and slightly amused.

This seemingly unstoppable man has an astonishing history which is revealed as the story progressed.

Molly, described as "all freckles and red hair and youthful vigor," is a force to be reckoned with - and a great way to get teen girls to pick up this book. Molly's got moxie, and she can certainly hold her own. She trusts her gut, which has helped her to survive. The following quote relays that nicely, and is something that many of my favorite characters have in common:

A tiny voice in the back of Molly's mind screamed at her not to trust him. Her self-preservation had depended on her learning over the years not to trust anyone. Felix had been the one exception. - Page 55

I don't want to tell you too much about the fantastic workings of Simon Church, because that was a wonderful surprise for me the first time I read the book. I was really fascinated by what made him tick. I could draw a parallel between his story and A Christmas Carol, as he is visited one by one by important people from his past.

If you are a fan of Fringe, this book needs to be on your radar. (Hello, Manhattan and alternate history!) Run, don't walk, to pick up Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden - NOW!

Official Book Flap Copy
In 1925, earthquakes and a rising sea level left Lower Manhattan submerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the Drowning City. Those unwilling to abandon their homes created a new life on streets turned to canals and in buildings whose first three stories were underwater. Fifty years have passed since then, and the Drowning City is full of scavengers and water rats, poor people trying to eke out an existence, and those too proud or stubborn to be defeated by circumstance.

Among them are fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time Orlov the Conjuror was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man, a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a seance goes horribly wrong, Felix Orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits, and Molly soon finds herself on the run.

Her flight will lead her into the company of a mysterious man, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past is a mystery to him, but who walks his own dreams as a man of stone and clay, brought to life for the sole purpose of hunting witches.

Reviews by Others

"Highly descriptive writing and grotesque imagery help to place readers in this truly fantastic setting with hints of elder gods and worlds beyond worlds. Enhanced by multiple points of view and deeply philosophical in its underpinnings, the lavish illustrations add immediacy to Molly’s world. Both [readers] who like their fantastic sprinkled with a little Lovecraft and steampunk and those who are interested in a wider view of the world should enjoy this."
- School Library Journal

"J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote about 'the leaf-mold of story,' the accumulated hoard of human imagination from which further stories always grow. One can only marvel at the richness of the compost that generations of active fantasizing have created—so many images, creatures, concepts. But it still takes something special to impose a unifying vision, and Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden have got it...The world that results (made even richer by Mr. Mignola's drawings) is one of the most powerful 'neverwheres' of the modern fantastic imagination. Joe Golem is surely booked for further adventures."
- The Wall Street Journal

"Rife with archetypes gleaned from the darkest gems of myth, folklore, and pop culture...It works because Mignola and Golden have written characters that give the tale a beating heart...These are people you can get behind, not shallow monster fodder...Fast-paced and entertaining, the novel's an easy recommendation for fans of Mignola and Golden. YA enthusiasts will find that it doesn't pander to the young, providing a dark, sturdy story that will appeal to teenagers and adults alike. It's also a gorgeous tome to behold, not least because of Mignola's always-stunning artwork. His black-and-white illustrations provide stark windows into the world of the novel, never giving away too much so the reader's imagination has room to experiment."
- Slant Magazine

"There's an appetite out there for these sorts of propulsive, fantasy-rich mash-ups of steampunk and mythic literature...But few combine literary sincerity and fun as well as Mignola and Golden. Here the pair construct a rich world ripe for sequels and prequels. With Jules Verne technology, ghosts, magic and multidimensional monsters...it's an awfully fun way to pass an afternoon."
- Kirkus Review

"The tone of the novel is pulpy, splashed with Mignola's eternally present Chthulian atmosphere...and Christopher Golden does a noble job of infusing the mood of Mignola's artistic style into the printed word...Fans of Hellboy, steam punk, and pulp mysteries should find a lot to like about Joe Golem and the Drowning City."
- Brodartvibe

"Joe Golem and the Drowning City is that most marvelous kind of book - wholly original and yet completely accessible. Set in a unique world full of vivid and moving characters, it is gritty, mysterious, moving, and surprising. A brilliant combination of steampunk, fantasy, mystery, and adventure."
- David Liss, author of The Twelfth Enchantment

"A race against supernatural disaster through a haunting, dreamlike, and partially submerged New York City full of freaks, ghosts, and other lost souls, a story that grabs from the first page and doesn't let go."
- Tad Williams

"Joe Golem and the Drowning City is a warm, wicked, frantic tale of noble monsters and monstrous men. Not merely weird and not simply gorgeous, this supernatural steampunk fable is intimate and profound. It is dreadful and sublime."
- Cherie Priest

Additional Details
Published March 27th, 2012
Hardcover
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Click here to buy the book now!
ISBN-10: 0312644736
ISBN-13: 978-0312644734

Limited Edition
A limited edition of Joe Golem and the Drowning City will be released on September 26th, 2012. Signed by the authors, this special slipcase edition will offer extra illustrations and include the short story Joe Golem and the Copper Girl. Only 1,000 copies will be printed. Published by Dark Horse. Click here to order the limited edition.

Movie News
Alex Proyas will be adapting and directing the movie version of Joe Golem and the Drowning City. Proyas is known for his work on films such as Dark City and the 2004 version of I, Robot.

Related Titles

Also check out the short story Joe Golem and the Copper Girl by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, which is available as an eBook for just 99 cents. Click here to get it now!

COPPER GIRL is a stand-alone short story which was released prior to the novel. Here's the premise: Hard-nosed private detective Joe Golem and his employer are faced with one of their strangest cases yet. When a young mother named Rachael Blum arrives on their doorstep, frantic about the bizarre changes in her daughter's appearance and the terrible dreams plaguing the girl, it's up to Joe to separate nightmare from reality. But Joe Golem knows better than anyone that sometimes, the two are one and the same.

You should also check out Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, another Mignola & Golden collaboration. This story began as an illustrated novel which led to two series of successful comics and graphic novels.