There are few webcomics as popular or influential as Hark! A Vagrant, but news of Kate Beaton’s latest project arrived from a fairly unexpected source, the science fiction blog io9. She’s illustrating a young-adult book, The Well’s End, by debut novelist Seth Fishman.
UPDATED (11:48 a.m.): Fishman has written to clarify that, unfortunately, Beaton isn’t illustrating the novel, but rather created some exclusive art for the unveiling of the cover.
The summary from publisher Putnam makes it sound like quite a cracking yarn, too — the kind of thing that gets optioned quickly by Hollywood:
A childhood accident, a bizarre outbreak, and an impossible discovery…
Mia Kish is afraid of the dark. And for good reason. When she was a toddler she fell deep into her backyard well only to be rescued to great fanfare and celebrity. In fact, she is small-town Fenton,Colorado’s walking claim to fame. Not like that helps her status at Westbrook Academy, the nearby uber-ritzy boarding school she attends. A townie is a townie. Being nationally ranked as a swimmer doesn’t matter a lick. But even the rarefied world of Westbrook is threated when emergency sirens start blaring and the school is put on lockdown, quarantined and surrounded by soldiers who seem to shoot first and ask questions later. Only when confronted by a frightening virus that ages its victims to death in a manner of hours does Mia realize she may only just be beginning to discover what makes Fenton special.
The answer is behind the walls of the Cave, aka Fenton Electronics. Mia’s dad, the director of Fenton Electronics, has always been secretive about his work. But unless Mia is willing to let her classmates succumb to the strange illness, she and her friends have got to break quarantine, escape the school grounds, and outsmart armed soldiers to uncover the truth about where the virus comes from and what happened down that well. The answers they find just might be more impossible than the virus they are fleeing.
Beaton has an amazing capacity for portraying subtle emotions and character with a few deft pen strokes. She’s an inspired choice for an assignment in this genre. The 352-page novel will be released Feb. 25, 2014.