One of the perks of living with Alison is that not only does she bring home a lot of books, she brings home books that aren’t out yet. These are called “advance reader copies”, or ARCs. Sometimes they are things I’ve asked her for, but more often they’re things I didn’t even know about.
This week she handed me an uncorrected proof of Doug Tennapel‘s new book with Scholastic, Ghostopolis. I would give you a link, but it’s not up on Scholastic’s website yet.
Now, I’m mostly familiar with Doug’s video game work, as Earthworm Jim came out during MY first year working in video games, and caused quite a stir. But I also know that he has a following for his comics, and I recently watched a nice video of him inking. So I started reading Ghostopolis right away instead of throwing it on the “to read eventually” pile. Here, then, is my review/preview. You will only have to wait until July to read the book yourself (sorry).
Ghostopolis is the story of two unlikely heroes: a young boy named Garth (it’s hard for me not to type Gareth) who lives with his single Mom and has an unspecified terminal illness, and a slightly over-the-hill ghost hunter named Frank. Frank works for the Supernatural Immigration Task Force, and his job is to banish ghosts back to the afterlife where they belong. (He’s more like a kid-friendly version of Harrison Ford in Blade Runner than Bill Murry in Ghostbusters.) Frank is trying to banish a particularly pesky skeletal horse when the unthinkable happens — he accidentally sends Garth, a living boy, into the afterlife. Rescuing Garth will require herculean efforts and lots of help from his ghostly ex-girlfriend Claire Voyant.
It’s a very involving story, pretty fast-paced with lots of humor but also a slight undercurrent of “hey we’re talking about death here”. I read it in two sittings. There are a few plot points I found hard to swallow, such as how ghosts and people can touch each other, and how you can ride a skeleton horse at high speed without the spiky vertebrae ripping your groin to shreds. And the ending has a huge, double deus ex machina. But hey, the story makes no pretense of being realistic, so I still enjoyed it quite well. The characters are fun and convincing, and almost all of them get their own story arc resolutions by the end of the book.
The artwork is excellent. Tennapel has lovely fluid brushwork, and the characters are well designed and always recognizable. Backgrounds occasionally get shortchanged, but not enough to be a problem. Only the first 16 pages of the ARC are in color, but I believe the final book will be full-color throughout, and the coloring is very well done.
The book is aimed at grades 5-7, which seems about right. Adults will probably enjoy it too, but find it a bit light and fluffy. By the way, that cover above may not be the one on the final book, as ARCs often don’t have final covers.
Supposedly Ghostopolis is also being made into a movie with Hugh Jackman. No idea what age range that will be aimed at, but clearly Tennapel is popular in Hollywood. I’m sure my review will now push him into superstardom.