Friday, February 26, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 23 (2/26) -- Grandville by Bryan Talbot

Real unpredictability is a rare thing in any creator, and something to be prized. And, since Bryan Talbot has followed up the almost indescribable Alice in Sunderland with the only slightly more explicable Grandville -- which otherwise has absolutely nothing in common with Alice -- it's fair to say that none of us have any clue what he'll do next.

Grandville is, if one absolutely must encapsulate it, a police thriller. With international political implications that echo 9/11. In a steampunk alternate world where England just emerged from the Napoleonic French imperial boot a generation ago, after a bloody insurrection. Where all of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. (With a few human "doughface" incidental characters -- they're a minor, non-citizen breed apparently native only to France.) I think that covers it.

Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard is the large badger on the cover, a brilliant, dashing, and superbly accomplished investigator. He and his assistant, Detective Ratzi (no points for guessing his species), are investigating the violent death of a British spy -- whom LeBrock immediately realizes was murdered by a French assassin squad to prevent his report from reaching British authorities.

So LeBrock and Ratzi head straight to Paris -- also called Grandville, for no reason other than pure center-of-the-world reasons that I could discern -- on the inevitable cross-channel railway bridge. They find the expected French superiority, arrogance, stonewalling, and rudeness -- which soon escalates into violence. Clearly, someone doesn't want LeBrock to get to the bottom of this case.

For all of the rococo trappings, this is a old-fashioned (and mildly predictable) adventure tale, full of derring-do, hair's-breadth escapes, battles against ridiculous odds, and perfidious enemies bent on destroying everything that LeBrock has sworn to protect. It's dashing and exciting and thrilling, an excellent genre exercise -- but not much more than that. (I was mildly disappointed to see that LeBrock's love interest was another badger, for example -- I was hoping Talbot's take on anthropomorphism wouldn't be as speciesist as the usual.)

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Josh Ritter - Harrisburg (solo acoustic)
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Actually Bryan has a bunch of Grandeville sequels planned. Previews of the next one are already online. But I'm not complaining. He can be unpredictable again in a few years time.

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