Saturday, July 07, 2007

Flaming London, by Joe R. Lansdale

Flaming London
Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press: 2006

What do you get when you mix Jules Verne, Mark Twain, The War of the Worlds, King Kong, Sitting Bull, a giant steam powered robot, and a highly intelligent and horny seal? Flaming London! The sequel to Joe R. Lansdale's Zeppelins West, that's what!

Zeppelins West was a highly entertaining blend of some classic pulp science fiction and alternate history. Flaming London is more of the same, only with different characters and books to send up. Ned the Seal is back and washed up on some faraway shore where he is found by Mark Twain, a currently struggling author whose life has pretty well fallen apart (much like what happened to to Twain in real life). Twain brings Ned to Twain's friend Jules Verne, a still successful author and inventor. Meanwhile, octopi from Mars have invaded with Death Rays and are laying waste to the Earth, much like what happened in War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (Wells himself will make an appearance later in the novel), only without the octopi. The tripods are back, though. The rest of the novel is an escape by Ned the Seal, Twain, and Verne, as well as a chance to fight back. Oh yeah, King Kong, the Jolly Roger, Robots, dinosaurs, a time traveler, and more will make appearances later in Flaming London.

It would not take much to guess that I was enthralled and entertained by Joe Lansdale's story here. Wickedly funny, Ned the Seal is a much stronger character in Flaming London than he was in Zeppelins West, indeed he takes center stage in this novel. The combination of seeing how Lansdale fits together historical figures and fictional worlds to tell a coherent narrative is pure pleasure, as is Lansdale's stylish use of language. Sometimes harsh, sometimes crude, always entertaining, Joe Lansdale is a master stylist and spins a hell of a story. Laced with humor and near violence, Lansdale spits out the story but we don't want to step back. We want the story to spray all over our face. We want to wallow and revel in Lansdale's storytelling. This is Joe Lansdale at the top of his game.

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