Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Emperor Mollusk Versus The Sinister Brain

by A. Lee Martinez


Emperor Mollusk sounds like a kind of seafood you'd find in a pretentious restaurant, served with salad and a piquant sauce with a French name. He's not exactly your typical hero. This smart, squishy creature spends most of his time wearing an "exo", which is a kind of humanoid-shaped protective body suit that allows him to move around freely out of the water. And it's just as well he does, because everywhere he goes he attracts enemies.

Every planet and some moons in the solar system are inhabited by alien races in this story. Mollusk is a rogue Neptunon. He seems gentle and kind, and he doesn't deliberately set out to hurt anyone, but he's also Earth's former overlord and he has managed to outrage the Venusians, Saturnians, Mercurials, and many other groups. Pretty much everyone, in fact, except the people of Earth, where everyone loves him. He's especially fond of Earthlings in return, although this is no guarantee of safety for humanity. But Mollusk has retired as Emperor. Not that this makes him any less of a target. He's relaxing after a space battle when the Venusian Commander Zala turns up and tries to take him into her custody, warning him of an imminent assassination threat. This is something the Emperor takes in his technologically-assisted stride, but sure enough someone does seem to be out to get him. Absurdly dangerous situations pile on thick and fast.

Mollusk has the help of Snarg, his faithful pet ultrapede, which is like a metallic cross between a dog, a scorpion and a robot slinky. They face off things like giant rampaging desserts, dinosaurs, and the end of the known universe, while they try to work out who is behind the attacks and what they're really after.

The main character is odd, a mad scientist anti-hero who doesn't aim to be vicious but nevertheless is responsible for most of his own not inconsiderable problems. He can't help himself when it comes to inventing shiny new toys capable of untold destruction. He's not invulnerable, but he's too clever and that often means there's less suspense because we know he'll figure a way out of any mess. Zala is almost his opposite: she's a hard nut bound by stiff notions of honour and pride, and she doesn't like having to think about the flaws in her world view.

This book is a quick, clear read with lots of zany humour in the vein of Douglas Adams or Red Dwarf. It's full of great characters such as the lazy immortal Serket who basks in the lap of luxury with no idea of how other people live. I particularly liked the greedy people of Atlantis and the over-polite monks of Shambhala. The Sinister Brain wavers between seeming to be smart enough to outfox the Emperor, and talking like a hackneyed megalomaniac, so we don't quite know where we are with the villain until the end.

Mollusk's world is present-day Earth seen through psychedelic-tinted glasses and every crazy, cool, or whimsical idea is given forty-foot legs and allowed to run rampant. It's funny and puzzling by turns. The main antagonist is a brain in a jar, when Mollusk himself is no more than a squishy blob of be-tentacled boffinry suspended in a glass container, so it's like one brain versus another. Yet no matter how silly his adventures get they always make a kind of sense, and this soft-bodied intellectual snob and evil genius is actually quite sweet.

26th March 2012

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  Science fiction
  Male Protagonist  

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