A science fiction space romp in ROADKILL ON THE FLIPSIDE
BOOK REVIEW: 4.5-STAR REVIEW
IR Verdict: Author Dean Ammerman’s strength is describing large-scale action scenes with a range of oddball characters, punchy dialog, perfect timing, and lighthearted satire in ROADKILL ON THE FLIPSIDE, the 4th book in the Warrensberg Trilogy.
A nervous, persistent 16-year-old, Wilkin Delgado, and a 17-year-old fiery warrior/business mogul, Alice Jane Zelinski, embark on a whirlwind adventure, trying to solve the puzzle of how to prevent the entire universe from being sucked into a giant black hole.
With the exception of some character history and world building in the first few chapters, the story has vivid, nonstop action right down to the final page. It features a wealth of zany characters: a 10-year-old war veteran, an alien who drives a flying dumpster and loves Fanta, literary tunnel rats who quote famous philosophers and writers, members of a Holy Order who provide mystery with their inscrutable large “Book,” and a pompous military man who adores his enormous collection of wool suits. Soldiers, aliens, creatures, places, and machines are painted larger than life. It is a well balanced mix of entertaining adventure and satirical, infectious humor—especially towards war, consumerism, and government bureaucracy—with some poignant moments, too.
The character Alice Jane Zelinski is superbly done. Her personality pops off the page in every scene. She is a fashion dynamo, a kung fu artist extraordinaire, and is hugely wealthy and successful at age seventeen. Nothing stops her from pushing through to get what she needs. The part that makes her likeable—and believable—is her sarcastic humor and a warm heart underneath her short temper, evident when she describes her devotion to Jasper, her boyfriend who sacrificed his life to save hers.
Wilkin Delgado’s character could be stronger. The chapters are written in the first person, alternating between Alice Jane’s story and Wilkin’s which works well for the most part in propelling the story. Sometimes it is confusing who the narrator is because Wilkin’s character is not as compelling—and occasionally not as recognizable—as Alice Jane’s. Wilkin’s character would be stronger if he had more unique traits, perhaps an experience from his childhood that motivates him. He is a bit too generic as a hesitant, teenage everyman.
The story has a well crafted arc from Wilkin’s recruitment to fight in a bizarre war to a race against time to solve the mystery of the black hole and save the universe. The buildup to the story’s climax is exciting, including an epic battle of Alice Jane and Dimple Man (a powerful soldier and her nemesis) on a teetering tower, and keeps the reader guessing how these characters will ever figure out how to stop the black hole from destroying everything. The author’s style is witty and sharp (Alice Jane learns clues from a wise woman in “The Place that Isn’t”), with colorful, humorous descriptions of clothes, habits, and machines.
THE LAST MA-LOO, an offbeat cosmic adventure
BOOK REVIEW: 4-STAR REVIEW
IR Verdict: Funny, weird, delightful; an unforgettably eccentric romp through the multiverse.
Alice Jane Zelinski and Wilkin Delgado are residents of Warrensberg, Minnesota, the most important place in the universe. Veterans of various intergalactic adventures, they are called upon once again to protect all of space and time. Creatures called Ma-Loos are suddenly quite scarce, which is a problem because Ma-Loos are vital to maintaining the integrity of the structure of the multiverse, and without them, the cosmos would collapse in on itself. To figure out what happened to these elusive animals, Alice Jane and Wilkin enlist the help of some key friends, like a tracking puffin, an intergalactic plumber, an intergalactic electrician, hundreds of tiny alien larvae, and Alice Jane’s new boyfriend.
Dean Ammerman’s THE LAST MA-LOO is the kind of sublimely silly sci-fi comedy where the rules might not be too clear (the structure of the cosmos is at one point compared to a tube of Pringles), but even if the story doesn’t always make sense, the gags always land. THE LAST MA-LOO is fairly good at the art of weirdness for weirdness’ sake, with a sensibility probably culled from the works of Douglas Adams and Rick and Morty.
Though not really a character-driven book, Alice Jane stands far above the others. She is a perfect mix of teenage pettiness and heroic sacrifice, a girl who seems to sneer at all the people she’s saving. When preparing for near certain death, she changes into her Lululemon yoga pants, “because they’re comfy and pink and I look amazing.” When summing up her philosophy, she says, “‘I observe the teachings of Shaolin Kung Fu.’ (Sort of.) ‘I walk the path of peace and enlightenment.’ (When I feel like it.) ‘All life is holy.’ (Especially mine, I should have added.)”
Full of clever dialogue and over-the-top silliness, THE LAST MA-LOO is one of those sci-fi comedies that works better as the latter than the former. An entertaining read—full of cosmic mirth and celestial absurdity—it’s a weird little delight for young adults of all ages.
Funny, weird, delightful; an unforgettably eccentric romp through the multiverse.
A fun space-age quest to keep the cosmic water flowing in: ESCAPE FROM DORKVILLE
BOOK REVIEW: 4-STAR REVIEW
IR Verdict: ESCAPE FROM DORKVILLE is a deliciously insane, mischievously funny bit of science fiction fluff - just what the inter-dimensional plumber ordered to liven up a dull day.
A pair of humans, an intergalactic plumber, a puffin, and an Ergonomics and Fiscal Engineer must journey to find the All and Everything in order to save the universe from drying out.
Wilkin Delgado and Alice Jane Zelinksi have just gotten back to Warrensberg, Minnesota after helping a plumber named Cardamon Webb and a puffin named Loretta, and others plug a hole in the universe. But now Webb has asked for their help again. Apparently, the universe is drying up, and it is necessary to make a pilgrimage to the All and Everything in order to restore the flow of fresh water from the Source.
ESCAPE FROM DORKVILLE is an absurdist delight, full of oddball characters and surreal situations. Ammerman’s snarky sense of humor, and a vigorous plot driven by one bizarre event after another, keep the book lively and amusing from beginning to end. Whether it’s an attack by vicious grazing animals who can only be soothed by Canadian folk music, or the perils of travel by Suck-Up, the author’s imagination never fails. Regular switches between the story’s two narrators provide a double perspective on the action, keeping the story from getting bogged down by one character’s prejudices or perceptions. Even the main characters, though, are never quite sure of what’s going on, and there are new surprises around every corner. This is a book to be devoured in one sitting, as it is short, sweet, and very difficult to put down.
The story succeeds with over-the-top caricature for the most part. However, the author does at times harp on characters’ main personality quirks a bit too much, enough so that the excessive repetition dampens the joke. Alice Jane’s high opinion of her own physical appearance, for example, is repeated ad nauseam, as is Glandoria’s egotistical self-preening.
ESCAPE FROM DORKVILLE is a deliciously insane, mischievously funny bit of science fiction fluff – just what the inter-dimensional plumber ordered to liven up a dull day.
Waiting for the Voo
BOOK REVIEW: 5-STAR REVIEW
“There are a lot of sad, gloomy, disturbing books out there. Whole categories of them. In fact, if you think about it, almost all fiction and non-fiction is depressing. (With the exception of 'Harold and the Purple Crayon,' of course.) So I decided to write something that was only mildly not uplifting. That was my starting point.”
IR Verdict: Buried beneath the outlandish circumstances of world annihilation is a lesson in empowerment.
"Ammerman's literary strategy is one that proves successful both in this plot and in life."
Welp! It seems the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Time to call the plumber. But can the mysterious and downright quirky Cardamon Webb save our existence with a toilet plunger and a user manual? Two hapless, young, everyday heroes, an awkward thirteen-year-old named Wilkin Delgado and a feisty fourteen-year-old named Alice Jane Zelinski have their doubts. Yet with their once-familiar world now becoming lost, it is up to them to find inner direction amid a chaotic and dying world. But, wait! What should be a united mission in world salvation is complicated by the likes of Philbus Trot. This scoundrel has a history of self-serving destruction, but when he happens onto the likes of Wilkin and Alice Jane—he may have met his match.
Author Dean Ammerman offers up a delightful blend of adventure, courage, friendship and humor. His voice is especially appealing to the young adult audience. Despite the signs of impending disaster, kids are still kids and the way Ammerman allows the characters to interpret their rather grim circumstances is cleverly authentic.
Alice Jane: Let me tell you, the Gutrog had amazing superhuman strength. I’d never in my life faced anything like it before, and I’ve arm-wrestled gorillas, thrown a sumo wrestler twenty feet, bench pressed 403 pounds and opened a Diet Coke with my eyelids.
Ammerman’s literary strategy is one that proves successful both in this plot and in life; if you teach a child the lessons of life and arm them with the tools necessary to succeed, a child can lead.
While the plot, itself, seems simplistic (yet so fun to read) the message is one of substance. Success isn’t found in relying on other people or organizations or even governments to make decisions for you. That’s wasting time waiting for the Voo. Stay away from the Voo. The Voo will weigh you down and destroy you. Instead, success is achieved in developing one’s own strengths, recognizing the strengths and knowledge in others, determining whom to trust, educating oneself on the good things, identifying the solutions to a problem, then – go. Take the lead, and make the world better than the way you found it.
Buried beneath the outlandish circumstances of world annihilation is a lesson in empowerment.