Thursday, March 29, 2012
100 Books #26 - A. Lee Martinez' EMPEROR MOLLUSK VERSUS THE SINISTER BRAIN
With a genetically-engineered "jelligantic" (think of the Blob with state-of-the-art giant robot arms meant to crush entire cities with each blow) , hilariously litigious Atlanteans (literally; they believe in "optimism through litigation"), Bermuda Triangle-dwelling pterodactyls that fire laser beams from their eyes, a rampaging mecha-Marie Curie and a protagonist whom it's impossible not to picture as a (somewhat benevolent) Dalek out of its shell , Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain may possibly just represent the last stages of A. Lee Martinez (who, after all, brought us vampire cows in his debut novel, Gil's All-Fright Diner) completely losing his mind in an effort to top himself.* But I think a completely off-his-rocker Martinez is a Martinez who will continue entertaining us for quite some time to come and can only applaud the madness. If he must be locked up and straitjacketed, at least give him a laptop and Dragon Naturally Speaking. For great justice.
And what I've described above is really just the surface of what is, amidst the insanity, the best non-musical supervillain autobiography since Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, and probably even better than that.
All of this silliness makes the book worth reading right there -- I could quote awesome lines at you for pages and pages -- but Martinez isn't just out to make us chuckle. Buried amongst the one-liners and the absurd accounts of, e.g. using the Eiffel Tower to repel an actual alien invasion and Neil Armstrong having been eaten alive by the natives of Luna, is a sound and thoughtful critique of megalomania: once you've conquered a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, what do you do with it?
If you're Emperor Mollusk, apparently, you spend a hell of a lot of your time saving it from the deleterious effects of your own presence: your super science falling into the wrong hands, your days constantly being interrupted by the semi-enslaved sentient population insisting on throwing you a giant parade every afternoon, your alien enemies constantly invading... The story of how all of this is resolved makes an engaging and amusing series of set-piece battles that often teeter on the brink of being unsatisfying -- Emperor Mollusk is a tiny bit too close to omnipotence to ever really be believably in jeopardy -- but the sense that all of said set pieces are leading to something bigger and more intriguing never goes away, and by the mind-bending, paradoxical Bill-and-Ted-ish climax, is more than justified. This is a journey with kickass scenery and a destination worth reaching.
Plus, it's also, you know, really, really funny.
*Oh, and Emperor Mollusk's pet-cum-guard animal? A giant cyber centipede named Snarg. "Radiation just makes her hungry." How can I not love this book?