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Tentacle Death Trip Paperback – April 9, 2012
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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From the Back Cover
"The literary equivalent of the Hot Wheels Octoblast track set and a hip-flask of Motor Whiskey, Tentacle Death Trip is pure post-apocalyptic, ultra-violent muscle-car madness. Think Death Race 2000 meets Mad Max by way of William S. Burroughs' The Place of Dead Roads on the way to H. P. Lovecraft's R'lyeh, but with Krall's unmistakably bizarro pulp sensibilities." -Ross E. Lockhart, editor of The Book of Cthulhu
"Feelin' drab and norm? Need dazed? Shoot up with this hell-poppin' BIZARROization of 5 post-apocalypso drivers/1 DEATHrace/FreAkS.s./mutants/mystery/and more tentacles than Cthulhu, and WHAM!-CRASH!-ThrAk! all yer ills are cured!"-Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. author of The Orphan Palace
"Krall has quite a flair for outrage as an art form." -Edward Lee, author of THE BIGHEAD and THE DUNWICH ROMANCE
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Sure, the initial premise seems straightforward enough. Cue movie-announcer voice, in an apocalyptic near-future etc. etc., the crumbling ruins of society, radioactive mutants, food scarce fuel scarcer, ultimate in entertainment and competition is the death race.
With souped-up, customized, uber-weaponized mean machines. And drivers who are chosen partly for skill and partly for sheer larger-than-life character or personality. There’s the spoiled rich girl, the hard-drivin’ bible-thumper, the cross-dressing slaveboy, the occulty/cyborg dude, and our protagonist. The everyman, the good guy in a bad world, who’s already found out to his sorrow that niceness is a dangerous liability.
The five of them are brought to the starting gate and introduced to the race’s sponsor, Mr. Silver. The prize is the chance of a lifetime, the course is laid out, the rules are simple … and off they go.
What follows is the high-speed road rage you might expect, as the competitors seek to eliminate each other while avoiding their own destruction. Obstacles along the way include hostile swarms of flying teeth, robot monsters, cannibals, cultists and zealots.
But wait, there’s more! Because the finish line is at this miraculous city that’s arisen from the ocean depths. Destination R’lyeh (though in the Atlantic instead of the usual South Pacific). The drivers who get that far might be inclined to wish they hadn’t, and we’re also shown in a series of flashbacks how they reached this point … as, for some, their pasts return to haunt them.
It’s a weird, weird, extremely weird book. It would make one wild movie if the effects budget could hold up. Like the race it describes, it’s high-speed and pretty much non-stop; once you start reading you’re most likely in it for the duration.
TENTACLE DEATH TRIP also isn't the most original of stories--but it doesn't try to be--and what makes it more interesting are the five rather exceptional racers: Samson, the mysterious self-vindicating family man driving a custom built Ligotti Turbo Z-23; Junko, the Japanese transvestite sex slave with a unique sense of pride and an appetite for his/her/ze(?) own hair driving the souped-up 1987 Honda Civic Si; Gabby Peppermint, the blond psycho with a cellphone and pink sledgehammer driving the Camaro; Mama Hell, the right-wing religious zealot wearing a shawl made of flesh covered in red tattoos driving a souped-up minivan and Drac Dunwich (truly the most bizarre of them all) the man from the Bronx with a skull made of glass and gasoline and an uncanny sense of honor driving the convertible with tentacles (yep, that's him on the cover).
But don't take any of this too seriously--as a lot is left unexplained, and for good reason too. It's almost like the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez collaboration that ultimately became the grindhouse-fest that was PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF. And in a similar vein, Jordan Krall goes all out here with TENTACLE DEATH TRIP and writes a B-movie/grindhouse-worthy tale about a death race in a post-apocalyptic future.
The prose in TENTACLE DEATH TRIP is matter-of-fact and very to-the-point and anything but ambivalent and sort of far from being poetic; rather, it's something akin to conversational story-telling, almost like an oral narrative. And in the strange and fascinating world that is TENTACLE DEATH TRIP, Krall doesn't restrict himself to the use of descriptors for the surroundings; rather, he forces the racers to crash and skid into just about anything that isn't nailed to the ground--in true DEATH RACE 2000 fashion.
All bizarro-ness aside though, the most interesting thing about TENTACLE DEATH TRIP--really--are the five racers and here, I'm not even talking about their personalities or their cars or their special quirks. It's remarkable, really, how Krall manages to fuse five fascinating and out-of-the-ordinary origin stories for reach of these characters within the story of TENTACL DEATH TRIP. And yes, while the world had still completely gone to crap, Krall attempts to give us these characters who (for some reason or another) think they are normal in the most non-normal of ways. And ultimately--and this became more obvious toward the end of the story--the overall story isn't supposed to be much more than something fun and liberating--like some sort of escape--and honestly, TENTACLE DEATH TRIP doesn't try to be something it isn't. This isn't something deep or intellectual or philosophical, and it isn't trying to offer some deep message about life or the world we live in right now. It's just very good mindless fun.
Krall's imagination runs wild in TENTACLE DEATH TRIP as you'll quickly find out about things like: the Scrutumi Goliath and Hoghead Heaven and the tornado made of teeth and the Gears and Tomato Joe and Enzo and Mr. Silver and Hell's Fish Market and water coffins and Lee Basatan and Bowsman and the bikers (who are also Tomato Joe's men) and Carol and Jack and Nate and Jane Mary and a handful of midgets and bare-chested men in torn denim jeans and the characters of COP and SLAVE and mushroom cigarettes (otherwise known as tcho) and the year 2025 and about the tentacles coming out from under Drac Dunwich's car and dried horseshoe crab and shoe-leather moonshine and the Zone of Dead Roads and the Zoners and Lord Bing Bong and Chaps and Ryan and Mario and Paulo and the nuclear holocaust of 2015 and fabric that melds to your body and all the tentacle sex and Cobra Canfield and hot meat-water and Lee Basatan's crab and Simon Revair and the Church of the Starry Engines and the Dunwich clan and scratch houses and Xnoybis IV and a spatilomancer and a vacuum-woman and Atlantic City and Sabbath and R'lyeh and Dogunville and LeRoux and pistols made of flesh and bone and Atlantis and old Tom Clancy novels and the spectators (or audience, as some like to call them) and Marsh and Trash and Ogre and Goehrig's and Mayo and Ingmar and Savage Freddie.
And yes, Krall's bizarro trademarks are still present in TENTACLE DEATH TRIP, there's: squid, crab, perspiration of some kind, feet, midgets, phalluses, hallucinogenic drugs and hallucinogenic dreams, ultra-violence, internal monologues, areolas, pancake references, middle fingers, a wooden donkey and then a cartoon donkey, ancient texts and tomes, and public defecation. It's like a lexicon for everything Krall, and then some more! And, in classic Krall fashion, the story comes complete with an intro, a prologue and then an epilogue to seal everything off.
Unfortunately, with everything great, there are also some not-so-great moments. For instance, a few passages leave a lot to be desired. There were bits where I honestly wanted to know more about what was happening. Like, why isn't there more about Hell's Fish Market or the water coffins, for instance? And Lee Basatan, one of the more interesting side-characters, I thought, why isn't there more of him? And then the cannibalistic Christians? All of these things were mentioned in passing which would be fine but with texts like TENTACLE DEATH TRIP, there is always just too much stuff going on and it would be impossible to cover everything, which is why I understand Krall when certain things are only mentioned in passing but, since there is always the need to explain certain things, like how and why everything is the way it is and who these people are--which Krall does fairly well--there were moments when the exposition felt a bit hurried and truthfully, a little tacky. Like, certain things seemed to happen just because they were happening...For no apparent reason--with no real explanation--and while this can be done fairly well and can seem believable in certain cases (especially in a universe like that of TENTACLE DEATH TRIP,) a handful of sections feel forced and finally, read like wasted potential, really. Tons of great ideas that, in theory, sound awesome when put into a synopsis but then--that's it--it's all really great when summarized and what we're missing from the text is the depth and detail necessary to make it all seem more authentic and really, interesting--so, TENTACLE DEATH TRIP comes with a few moments of not-so-great execution.
Aside from all that TENTACLE DEATH TRIP is an excellent what-if story about a future that doesn't seem too far off (2025) and all the characters and situations and cars make for a truly wonderful read. I remember Krall talking about TENTACLE DEATH TRIP back in 2009/2010 and after reading the synopsis, I was immediately hooked: DEATH RACE 2000 with tentacles. And I can honestly say that after having read the book (in a single sitting, which I very rarely do) you won't regret reading TENTACLE DEATH TRIP. TENTACLE DEATH TRIP is the feel-good spring-time bizarro post-apocalyptic blockbuster about cars and tentacles you've been waiting for all year.
The characters were a little too cartoonish for my liking, especially when Krall decided to pour some emotional depth into the gas tank.
Also, the book got interrupted each time to explain the history of each of the five race car drivers. Spending a lot of time talking about five characters, who are all basically doing the same thing, made it a little repetitive. Fun part is that you can pick a driver to root for and hope (s)he survives. Almost like a choose your own adventure book.
I had fun, but I enjoyed Squid Pulp Blues, Piecemeal June and Fistful of Feet a lot more. I recommend all of them. This one, I'd recommend if you're looking to turn your brain off for a cartoon-like book about a weird car race where only one will survive.