Hell & Highwater (Thirds Volume 1)
This post will be similar in structure to the Zero at the Bone full-review, I plan to summarize all the strong points, quality and the possible flaws you may come across in the different versions/adaptations of the book. So let’s get started.
Hell & Highwater original novel by Charlie Cochet
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Short explanation of the Story:
After the Vietnam war a new disease outbreaks due to the chemical/biological warfare. The usage of the new chemical/biological weapons caused mutations in the human DNA giving birth to a new species, the Therians. Therians are humans who can shift into feral forms (jaguars, tigers, lions, wolfs, bears, a whole variety of feral animals).
The appearance of this new species presents humanity with new challenges concerning either their medical cares, habitation, mental care, or legal status etc. The new social arrangement encompassing the Therian species, creates a very complex system, so I won’t explain it in detail, you have to read the book for that.
The actual story takes places nowdays, and starts with the main character Dex (Dexter J. Delay) getting promoted into the Thirds’ ranks (Therian Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron) from the HPF (Human Police Force). Yep, there will be a LOT of fictive alphabet agencies in the book(s). Dex joins the group Destructive Delta as a replacement of a former agent killed in action, and he has to earn his place in the team the hard way, because no-one wants to let Gabe’s memory fade away and let a rookie into their ranks.
While Dex fights for the respect of this team and especially the approval of his partner/team leader/love interest Sloane Brodie, he has to stand his ground against his formal human colleagues, the threats against his person or his teammates, and secret conspirators on the chessboard who are planning the new system’s demise.
My overall opinion about the book:
I really liked the book, the characters, even the story felt a bit unfulfilling at some places. Dex is a goofball embarrassing himself and his colleagues on a daily basis, always knowing how to make other laugh or at least cringe on his stupid jokes. His partner Sloane was a well balanced contrast of him, making him shine when he needed to, but grounded him when all Dex needed was a well-directed kick in his ass.
The other characters are equally entertaining, I really like the antagonist, he has a colorfully complex personality with mental disorders, a variety of complexes along with his strong belief that he’s acting out of innocence for the greater good (= for humanity). It becomes clear (frankly speaking I had an educated guess and it proved to be true in the end) early in the book who’s behind all the crimes.
So I really liked the book, but for me it wasn’t worth five stars, something was just missing for it to merit a fiver from me. But as you can see above I rated it a strong 4 star read (4 and a half even).
Hell & Highwater graphic novel, artworks by Son Gaepi
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Differences compared to the novel:
Because of the graphic novel nature, at some places the order of the events have been altered. Some events originally placed before the main storyline have been inserted in mid-story as a memory or gets told by one of the characters. In my opinion due to this solution the story-telling became smoother, we wouldn’t lose pace, and the event gets inserted to the exact story-point where the reader needs to know about it. So if the reader hasn’t got the chance to read the novel beforehand, they won’t miss any important details.
Based on the same concept, some of scenes simply got cut/left out from the flow of events, making the story more straightforward and keeping the chain of events as simple as possible. Some of it is told by using graphic visualization only, and they were still easily decipherable thanks to the busy/eventful frames.
My overall opinion about the graphic novel:
I really enjoyed Son Gaepi’s artwork as much I liked his version of Zero at the Bone. The character arts are expressive, Dex undoubtedly is the goofball he is in the novel, Sloane is a grumpy bastard, the funny scenes are indeed designed to be funny, and the serious events are detailed enough the get the point home.
On the internet there are many negative opinions regarding the artwork style, saying it’s too underdeveloped, crude even, with too high proportion of super deformed characters/frames. But keeping in mind the fact that half of the team members are highly qualified dingleberries (starting with Dex, not to mention Cael or Calvin), I had no problem with the super deformed/kawaii character representation.
Some frame exemples from Charlie Cochet’s twitter (before English translation):
What I will never understand is why anyone would use up so much energy for listing differences compared to the original work, or to find its so-called faults/flaws and requesting the graphic novel to be the same as the novel. Don’t they see that it’s a graphic novel with a most likely pre-fixed page count? Of course some part of the original story had to go. What is important in this case is to find a balance between the content kept and transferred into the graphic novel and the part to be sacrificed on the altar of consistency. Which is very well managed in Son Gaepi’s graphic novel.
The texts/conversations are directly carried-over from the original novel, re-creating perfectly the atmosphere of the book, bringing the characters into life along with the vivid artworks. So I highly recommend to read the graphic novel if you liked the novel, or before reading it to pre-check the Thirds universe. I cannot promise that you will like it unconditionally, but you certainly will find something unique.
Hell & Highwater audiobook, narrated by Mark Westfield
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Quality of the narration:
The narration is very good and well-articulated, easily eligible, as the voices of the characters are also distinguishable from each other with ease. Dex got a smooth voice, very different from the others, his tone is lighter making us feel his incessant smile and dopey almost-perma-grin. In comparison, Sloane’s is much grumblier, even the constant frown and snarl can be heard effortlessly.
The narration is dynamic, the descriptions are detailed and narrated with appropriate velocity. The pacing is good, the whole story will keep you hooked up.
My overall opinion about the audiobook:
This narration is clearly a high quality performance. Compared to the sixth or seventh book, the difference is like night and day. The last books of the series are narrated in a very irritating singsong voice, if you’re not a patient person (who doesn’t like to give him/herself time to get accustomed to it) it would be certainly unbearable. The strange thing is, that the same person narrates all of the books. Every single one of them was narrated by Mark Westfield…
I don’t know what had happened, maybe he got fed up with the series, but his performance in the latest books is almost insufferable…
Fortunately the first volume is perfect, making the experience of the book also flawless.
In my opinion the novel, graphic novel, and audiobook complement each other really well and wil give you a nice, well-rounded experience. I highly encourage everyone to get through all the three. Those works would be perfectly worthy of your time. My reading/listening order was: novel, graphic novel, audiobook, but it can be interchanged based on individual preference. 😉
Source of book covers: Goodreads