Zeppelins West Hardcover – Jun 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Irrepressible, irreverent and unpredictable, this hilarious fantasy with nostalgic touches of yesterday's SF shows off the narrative skills of an inventive author altogether comfortable in his metier. Legends of the Old West, plus characters both real and fictional, enliven the shenanigans, commencing with Buffalo Bill Cody, a head in a jar atop a mechanical body (after his ax-wielding wife caught him in bed with singer Lily Langtry), escorting his Wild West Show by zeppelin to Japan. Wild Bill Hickok romances Annie Oakley and discusses his old friend George Custer with his new friend Sitting Bull, who packs much comic punch in few words ("White eye motherfucker in wrong place at wrong time"). A ribald tall tale only gets wilder and wackier. In Japan, Cody spirits away Victor Frankenstein's monster, here fresh from the Arctic and unwillingly serving, from his foot up, as an aphrodisiac for a local shogun. Cody wants to go to "the island of Dr. Momo," in order to get that scientist to make him a similar body. Escape proves more difficult than arrival, however, when Japanese biplanes shoot down the zeppelin over the ocean. Happily, "Captain Bemo" in his submersible, the Naughty Lass, comes to the rescue, and the gang proceeds to Momo for more amusing adventures. With a striking jacket design and interior line drawings by Mark A. Nelson, this novel is one big joyride from start to finish. (June 18)for best novel.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
The word very quickly became aware of, and enamored with, Joe R. Lansdale's particular subgenre of "take famous personages and put them into very strange situations" almost overnight thanks to Don Coscarelli's film version of Lansdale's story "Bubba Ho-Tep" a couple of years ago. Well, folks, let me tell you, "Bubba Ho-Tep" was only the tip of the iceberg. Zeppelins West plumbs the depths, and what marvelous depths they be.
Okay, imagine the following. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is going to Japan (via zeppelin, naturally) to perform. Among the cast are Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, and Bill biographer Ned Buntline. All well and good, except that Bill is a head in a jar of pig urine. His body is being kept alive by scientists, and it is Bill's greatest dream to one day be reunited with his body. During their adventures, thanks to a series of odd missteps, they meet up with Captain Nemo, Frankenstein's Monster, the Tin Man (from the Wizard of Oz), and Dracula, and it all takes place on the Island of Dr. Moreau. Weird enough for you yet? If not, or even if it is, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. (The book's most interesting feature: the notable lack of the standard "all persons are fictional" disclaimer. I'm waiting for the lawsuits.)
The book, like most of Lansdale's recent work, slips back and forth between the hysterically funny and the oddly touching, but unlike most of his recent work, there's no real mystery to be found here, aside from the surface question of how everyone's going to get off the island when Moreau (known here as Dr. Momo) doesn't want them to leave. The mystery's not the thing, though.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As Zeppelins West begins, Cody, accompanied by Wild Bill Hickock, Annie Oakley, and the stoic but surprisingly funny Sitting Bull, is heading to Japan via zeppelin on a diplomatic mission to the court of Master Takeda, Emperor of Japan. An ally of America (Japanese Samurai battled alongside Custer at Little Big Horn), Japan occupies half of what modern readers know as the United States. Besides entertainment, Cody has another objective--free Victor Frankenstein's creature from Japanese custody before he can be consumed piecemeal by the Emperor, who believes the monster's flesh is actually an aphrodisiac.
As you might have guessed, Zeppelin's West is an alternate history, albeit one of the strangest in recent memory. Not content merely explore the subtleties of an alternate history where some key event has been altered, as would Howard Waldrop, or even to weave numerous literary and cultural references into his tale a la Kim Newman, Lansdale opts to do both, filtering them through his own fractured sensibilities. Thus, in addition to the Creature and the members of the Wild West show, readers are treated to appearances by Captain Bemo, Dr. Momo, Vlad Tepes, and Tin, who hails from an alternate reality where a certain wonderful wizard used to hold sway. Never one to let bad taste interfere with a story (that's meant in a good way), they're also treated to the Tepes' strange death at the hands (paws?) of Momo's beast men, and an affair between the Creature and Tin.
Similar to Pat Murphy's recent Max Merriwell/Mary Maxwell trilogy, Zeppelins West is a loving tribute to the type of literature Lansdale cut his own literary teeth on, including the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and John Wyndham, borrowing many of its characters, locales and situations directly from their works. In spirit, however, the parody owes much to the works of Philip Jose Farmer. Although Lansdale himself nods towards The Case of the Peerless Peer, the book seems to be more in the vein of such Farmer classics as A Feast Unknown, Lord of the Trees, and The Mad Goblin, which took great liberties with classic pulp characters. In the final analysis, Zeppelins West has something for everyone--plenty of blood and guts, outrageous action and adventure, homespun philosophy, humor (black and otherwise), and plenty of sex. In other words, everything we've come to expect from Joe Lansdale over the past two decades or so.
There is the award-winning mystery author Lansdale. There is the award-winning horror author Lansdale. There is the western author Lansdale (award-winning?). And there is the simply wacky author Lansdale. 'Zeppelins West' is written by the latter Lansdale.
'Zeppelins West' is difficult to categorize. So much happens throughout the course of the novel. At its core it's an adventure story. But it also contains parts of each different incarnation of Lansdale. There are horrific elements, such as when Dr. Momo's half-human half-animal creations decide to feast on each other. There are humorous moments such as when Frankenstein's monster (who has chosen the name 'Bert') falls in love with the Tin Man of Oz fame.
No matter how you classify this book, it's a fascinating read. Lansdale has thrown together dozens of historical and fictional personages, from Annie Oakley & Wild Bill Hickok, to thinly guised versions of Captain Nemo & Dr. Moreau. My favorite character is Ned the Seal, Captain Bemo's intelligent companion with a passion for Ned Buntline's pulp novels.
Yet, at the end of the novel I felt unfulfilled. The plot was solid. The characters were fascinating. Mark Nelson's illustrations were great. For whatever reason this novel didn't 'do it' for me.
There's only one Lansdale. He's the wackiest, most bizarre writer in America. Each new Lansdale novel is a treat. Don't miss this one. Even though it doesn't make my Best-of-Lansdale list, it very well could top yours.
Zeppelins West is a mash-up novel written in what would be called Steampunk today (I’m not sure this genre even had a name in 2001 when this was written). Historical and fictional 19th century characters intermingle in a world that has a level of technology equivalent to what you might find in a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells adventure. Annie Oakley, Bill Hickock, Sitting Bull, and Buffalo Bill Cody’s dismembered head--which is being kept alive in a Mason jar--travel to Japan, rescue Frankenstein’s monster who is being slowly ground up to be used as an aphrodisiac, then eventually have to escape from Dr. Momo (aka Doctor Moreau) and Captain Bemo (aka Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The Tin Man from Oz and even Dracula make appearances.
It’s all very slapdash and slapstick, of course. It reads like a short story that got carried away and went on a tad too long. Fortunately, it is brimming with imagination and humor throughout.
Will you enjoy this? Well, the more you know about the writings of HG Wells and Bram Stoker and L. Frank Baum and Mary Shelley and Jules Verne, the more jokes and references you'll get and the more it will appeal. It is intentionally and ridiculously pulpy, and it revels in that ridiculousness. I loved it.