Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb is a young adult (Y/A) novel about a boy who tests out of school early and becomes a photographer, only to be thrust into the headlines himself when his family becomes the target of assassins. But these aren't just any assassins. They're ghost assassins.

The setting is 1935, but it's not the same 1935 we all know. In this 1935, ghosts co-exist with the living, but only some of the living can see them. Those who can are called etherists. Johnny's sister, Melanie Graphic, is an etherist, and she belongs to a group who is dedicated to understanding how ghosts interact with the world of the living and how the ether (the area where the ghosts exist) works. Unfortunately, someone is targeting her group and killing them off one by one.

Luckily, Johnny's newspaper, The Clarion, is willing to sponsor a trip around the world, during which Johnny and Melanie have to identify the assassins, figure out what their plans are, and stop them before they are assassinated themselves. Along the way, they are accompanied by Uncle Louie and their friend, Nina, as well as a rag-tag group of ghosts.

There are a few things that I like about this book. One of them is the idea of ghosts co-existing with, and even being able to interact with, human beings. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you have to admit that the idea is intriguing. I also enjoyed the fact that the author went out of his way to give each ghost in the story his or her own unique personality. I felt that most of the ghost characters, as well as the human characters, were described quite well. I expect that the personalities of all of the main characters will be even further developed later in the series.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book is that it takes place in an alternate 1935. The locations all have different names than you might expect. There was a Civil War of sorts that ended differently from the Civil War we all know, causing a different division of countries, and a different governmental system. Granted, that also meant that I, as the reader, had to just accept certain things as fact and didn't have a lot of familiar reference points, but I liked the imagination behind the concept.

Prior to reading this novel, I was told that it was the first in a series. So, I read it with that in mind. There are some unanswered questions in this book. I assume that they will be answered in later books. However, the main plot of this book did stand alone nicely. It just left the door open for the sequel,which is a good thing.

Although the plot flowed well, I did have trouble getting into the first chapter or two, but each chapter consists of only a few pages. So, by page ten or twelve I was hooked. I found that the story flowed well after that, and there were a few times when I kept on reading, despite intending to do other things, because I wanted to see what happened next. I felt invested in the characters, which is something that I can't say about many books.

If there's one nit picky thing I can say about Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb, it's that I wish the time didn't seem overly emphasized. The year 1935 is mentioned several times, reminding the reader of the setting, but it didn't actually feel much like 1935, especially since it's set in an alternate reality anyway. Yes, there was the mention of “newsies,” and there were occasional descriptions of clothing from the era, but it really could have been any year and the story would have been just as good.

I give Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb 5 out of 5 stars. It was well-written, entertaining, and featured well-rounded characters. I felt like the writing was appropriate for the intended age group as well. Most importantly, it left me wanting more, as book one in a series always should.

Book:  Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb (Book 1 of series)
By:  D.R. Martin
Publisher: Conger Road Press
Length:  79,000 words
Genre: Young Adult (Y/A)
ISBN: 978-0-9850196-1-7
Available on