Science fiction and fantasy
Emperor Mollusk Versus The Sinister Brain
by A. Lee Martinez
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
If you like this, try:The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Garth Jennings
Wherever you go in the galaxy, somebody wants you to fill in a form.
Colony by Rob Grant
This humorous novel about a generation spaceship is written by one of the creators of Red Dwarf.
Review © Ros Jackson