Review: Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas (Eraserhead Press; 2014)

9 Feb

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Contains Spoilers

This action-packed, surreal, and humorous science fiction novella will challenge your science fiction genre expectations and confound your worldview.

Meet Pax: a four-armed intergalactic beefcake. Join him as he battles an array of imaginative beasts and contenders for the title at the demand of an egotistical Emperor.

Often, Pax Titanus reads like a dark adult cartoon. I wish there were bizarro novellas like this one when I was growing up. I would have devoured them with the gusto I spent lapping up every last b horror and drive-in classic from those long-forgotten video rental shelves.

The opening had a great hook (eventually, the two best friends would put their hands on each other’s cocks, ha, ha). Their conversations are refreshingly crass for a sci fi novel. Most sci fi I’ve read lacks the sense of humor of this one (except for PKD, who is the best IMO). Craxx’s sensual obsession with his sister is also funny and irreverent.

Here’s a memorable scene: Pax enlarging himself while saving Craxx with his monstrous member as they landed on the planet’s wailing diva and splattered the crowd with his love juices. Crude yet imaginative as the best of bizarro always seems to manage.

I read in the intro that this book was originally a short story. I asked Tom Lucas about the story’s genesis; he told me it was produced in a Litreactor writing class with Rose O’Keefe.

A vivid and mysterious call to adventure commences, along with a well-argued refusal of the call; however, the adventure must be undertaken: it means saving Pax’s family. The destruction of the journalists is funny scene. Pax’s relations with his squid wife and her secretions a bit eerie as she must’ve smelled his musk through her beak.

I would say Tom’s strength is definitely in writing imaginative action sequences with a sense of spectacle. His talents really shined in the first fight sequence with the…Mugworth (sp?). It was a nail-biting scene, which must have been difficult to accomplish given the odd nature of both the opponents’ bodies, but since we learned of Tits’ growth abilities earlier, it was a sound fight that did not tax the plausibility detector in this reader, even as his overweight fly trainer hovered in the corner.

The beaver with the hair caught in his throat was pretty hilarious–I got the sense of an ominous presence, but then when he coughed up the hair he became rather goofy. The second fight left me wanting for a bit more obstacles and passed too rapidly. The mana-pot and the fireballs made for RPG-esque imagery.

The scene with the dead Craxx and his “ninja handler” provided another PKD-esque horror moment. I love when horror blends with sci-fi and honestly wish their more of this sort of stuff out there.

The fight with the brain squealer was memorable. The mixture of cuddliness and terror reminded me of one of my favorite bizarro novels: The Cannibals of Candyland.

The final fight sequence did not disappoint. The inter-dimensional time-shifting device created quite the final adversary. The ending balanced humor with pathos ingeniously. Overall, a wild and fun ride. Sort of a bizarro Rocky mixed with Farscape.

Prepare to be disgusted, shocked, surprised, and awed at the magnificently grotesque set pieces this novel conjures up with a slightly satirical tone; that being said, this novella is not strictly a satire. It plays by the rules of the pulpy bizarro playbook: it delivers in equal doses of fun, entertaining storytelling, crisp and direct prose, unexpected plot twists, and bizarre and original imagery that somehow mocks and reshapes science fiction tropes while celebrating them.

Read Pax Titanus.

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