Immediately, it’s evident that Ghostopolis is something special. It begins as a simple tale of a heartbroken mother desperately trying to find a cure for her terminally ill son. From there, it jumps into adventure territory when that son—named Garth Hale—gets inadvertently pulled into the ghost world while still very much alive. There, he meets a host of good and bad creatures, including the estranged grandfather he never knew, who is looking for forgiveness in the afterlife for abandoning his daughter.
Speaking of his daughter—Garth’s mom—she’s frantic to recover her missing son, and so is Frank Gallows, the ghost hunter from the Supernatural Immigration Task Force who’s responsible for Garth’s trip to the other side of the supernatural plane. Problem is, Frank has been fired from his job for screwing up one too many times, so he’s going to have to go rogue in order to track Garth down. He’ll get some help in the form of an ex-girlfriend who, while still pretty bitter, has some connections that might help.
From these roots, Ghostopolis takes off in surprising and fun directions. Yes, it’s often a somewhat standard fantasy-adventure tale, but author Doug TenNapel (Iron West, Monster Zoo) gets to have a lot of fun working out the details of his imagined ghostworld, including political structure and the quantum physics of it all (how time flows, for example). Most notably, Garth riles the anger of Ghostopolis’ evil ruler, who feels threatened by the powers Garth remarkably inherits on the supernatural dimension.
Blended throughout are little touches of humanity that make the book a treasure for adults. Sure, the young kids will love it (as they should; it’s aimed at the 9–13 set, who’ll probably love the use of crassly funny words like—in one very important scene—diarrhea), and teens too may find plenty to enjoy in the action and drama. But the touching displays of familial love that abound throughout Ghostopolis give plenty of rewards to adult readers as well.
I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it’s slight and fast and this book deserves more. But by that point, the book has proven itself to be a winner over and over again, so the reader’s enjoyment is barely diminished. It’s a highly enjoyable read from start to finish.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 1, 2010