Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Tom Siddell

I. Heart. This. Book.

It has been since the last Harry Potter, folks. It has been that long since I was so wrapped up in a story. I loved this, and then I went online and proceeded to read the rest of the story, and loved that too. And now I am stuck because Siddell publishes updates every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and I desperately need to know more. It's like waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows except that it's released one page at a time. I knew, when I finished the book, that I should have controlled myself and just waited for the next published copy so I could read it all at once. But self-discipline is not one of my strong suits.

I'm not sure how to summarize it, either, especially since the story is ongoing, but I guess I can stick to the first published on-paper volume. Antimony Carver is sent to Gunnerkrigg Court, nominally an English-style boarding school, after her mother's death. Antimony had been living with her mother in the hospital, and it was her mother's wish that she would attend Gunnerkrigg Court. Antimony's father is completely absent, in a way that makes the reader angrier the more we know. We meet Antimony when she's first breaking school rules, less than two weeks into her stay, by helping a shadow creature escape the school. We meet her friend Kat as Antimony meets her, and start to untangle various mysteries about the school that all seem to be leading to one overarching mystery beginning in the Court, or perhaps beginning in Gillitie Wood, which is forbidden territory across the bridge from the school.

I can't be much clearer without getting into spoilers and/or taking up several hundred more words. This is an extremely complex story, with themes of love, betrayal, friendship, grief, humanity, technology, and magic all tangled up in it. Suffice to say, seeing it through Annie's eyes is helpful, as she's clever, witty, dry and trying her best to stay neutral while being extremely loyal to the few friends she has. Annie's a bit of an outsider, on account of her coming to the school a bit late, and especially on account of the fact that she has the ability to see spirits and interact with them and doesn't seem to care to hide it. It means that we see quite a lot of the picture, while still being mostly limited to Annie's perspective. And did I mention the wit? Annie's generally really funny, and there's a really wonderful mix of very moving moments, frightening moments, and very funny moments throughout the story. I laughed out loud a couple of times. I also got a little teary at points, too.

The supporting cast is just fantastic. They're also complex; I'm 31 chapters in and still completely confused about most of their motivations, but not in a bad way. I'm also thrilled to report that we're not that close to solving the big mystery yet, nor even really knowing fully what shape it takes (or even if it's one big mystery, or two or three loosely connected mysteries), so there's likely to be more of Annie and Kat to keep me enthralled in the future. I certainly don't want to let these characters or this story go any time soon. Each chapter can usually stand alone as its own story, but we're building towards something. My concern is that it will be pretty anticlimactic when we get there.

Anyone with an open mind about graphic novels and fantasy will find something to love here. The art is just lovely, the story blows my mind. If you can't find a paper copy, be prepared to spend a couple days in a row sneaking a peek at the website every time you have a free minute at a computer. And be prepared that your mind will wander its way into the story when you're not reading it, too. Many thanks go to darla for the heads-up on this one. I wouldn't have even known it existed otherwise, and her enthusiastic review encouraged me to recommend it for purchase at our library sight unseen.

5 comments:

Nymeth said...

I really think I'll love this, and yet I'm hesitant to start it until more of the story is out - waiting for those one-page-at-a-time updates can be agonising indeed!

christina said...

I can't believe they already have 31 chapters on line. How far do they plan on taking it, I wonder.

I'm bookmarking it regardless. I love your rave. :)

kiirstin said...

Nymeth - you are wise in the ways of the reading experience. If I had known just how invested I was going to get, I would have waited. Maybe. It was just so *pretty* when it came in to the library...

christina - I guess I am used to the extended serial comic, having read several that are at least as long! The chapters aren't terribly long, and it's a fast read.

Darla D said...

I am of course not surprised that you loved this, and it's great to spread the word! One thing I love about this is that it's equally appealing (and appropriate) for young readers as well as for adults. I hope he keeps writing and writing - I love these books!

kiirstin said...

It does have a very wide appeal. I think, as an adult, I pick up on some of the subtleties that I might have missed as a kid. I suspect this might be one of those books that changes as one ages, that would be good to come back to again and again.