issue 21 :: March 2012

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Literature: David Malki

Dispatches from Wondermark Manor BOOK (Bearstache Books)

Billed as a collection of three "Parody Victorian Novels," Dispatches is a rambling, joyful mess of absurdities, anachronisms and clichés that follows the unbelievable exploits of an unnamed, murderous neo-aristocratic narrator. Every paragraph contains some perversion of language, morality or logic, punctuated by endless cheap jokes and terrible puns. One of the funniest books I have read, Dispatches resembles an insane mix of John Carter, Warlord of Mars and Bored of the Rings. John Carter is an apt comparison, as in E.R. Burroughs' pulpy prose, our singular hero worms his way from misadventure to misadventure, his uncanny luck at surviving unsurvivable situations at every turn, killing and duping, turning enemies into allies (and vice-versa). As with such humor classics Catch-22 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I find it impossible to choose any one sentence to demonstrate the book's humor. Something about the Hindu cheese master Abu Fromage? The steam-powered Casio keyboard? Surviving at sea on nothing but "barrels of Shamrock Shakes, vile, milky beverages made of sugar-syrup and hatred?"
Malik, author of the equally enjoyable Wondermark web comic that only shares a name and misappropriated 19th Century etchings with the novels, has placed the first third of the trilogy online as a free teaser, so choosing just one tempting bit will not be a problem. This book (also available in audio and e book formats if you hate paper) is obviously not for everyone, and perhaps just for me, but anyone who loves puns, parodies and petulant purple prose posing peculiar paradoxes should enjoy this wonderfully silly book.
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