ROADKILL ON THE FLIPSIDE (Book 4 of The Warrensberg Trilogy)
Kabloona (183 pp.)
ISBN: 978-0-98-468226-3; August 31, 2017
In this fourth installment of a YA gonzo sci-fi series, two teenage galactic adventurers find themselves teleported across the universe to save, well, literally everything from an all-devouring black hole.
Warrensberg, Minnesota, alias “Dorkville,” is home to the two protagonists, who in the course of previous novels attained recognition all through the cosmos as troubleshooting heroes. On a seemingly ordinary day, 16-year-old Wilkin Delgado and his upstairs housemate, the 17-year-old, superpowered, warrior princess/fashion icon Alice Jane Zelinski LLC (having taken over most extraterrestrial business enterprises in an earlier tale), are teleported far away to the “Flipside” of outer space. Wilkin finds his old mentor, cosmic “plumber” Cardamon Webb, has yet another EOE (End of Everything) crisis on hand. Alice Jane, meanwhile, learns she’s been erroneously declared dead, but her quest sets her on a parallel path to the same dilemma: in a few days, a rogue black hole will consume the universe unless something is done. The search for answers involves an ancient, planet-sized spaceship gone haywire on a salvage-recycling mission, a few cryptic lines of alien religious scripture, and an endless, pointless, carnage-filled ground war against an indeterminate foe. The author steals a joke from Douglas Adams and the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by offering a fourth volume in a declared Warrensberg Trilogy. As in the preceding books, Ammerman (Waiting for the Voo, 2014, etc.) has the two leads narrating alternating chapters (which tend to conclude in cliffhangers), Wilkin in his more levelheaded voice making an amusing contrast with the self-aggrandizing and aggressive Alice Jane. The plot is one darned thing after another, often referencing characters and events of the saga’s previous installments, but it never bores or condescends to the YA demographic (violence quotient is, in fact, quite high; sex is nothing to worry about). Brevity is just about right for the breezy material, and readers who have followed these daring frenemies and their daffy exploits should find this very much in keeping with its predecessors.
A fast-paced space-capade whose apocalyptic elements are more comedy than gravity.
THE LAST MA-LOO (Book 3 of The Warrensberg Trilogy)
Kabloona (202 pp.)
ISBN: 978-0-98-468225-6; August 8, 2016
An inimitable teenage hero and his short-tempered accomplice must once again save humanity in this final installment of
Warrensberg, Minnesota, might seem like Plainsville, USA, to the untrained eye, but it is the “Octipoint,” the center of
the universe, according to the intergalactic travelers Ceek and Wergo. What’s more, the small town’s unwitting resident
Alice Jane Zelinski and her long-suffering housemate, Wilkin Delgado, aka Dodobrain, are the only ones who can set
things right. The problem this time is that the Ma-Loos are missing. And this is not just another run-of-the-mill
endangered species that has suddenly become extinct. The trusty intergalactic plumber Cardamon Webb has news for the
improbable duo: the Ma-Loos power the universe; they keep everything ticking. No Ma-Loos means a depressing End of
Everything. The good news: there is a way to reverse this madness. All that Wilkin and Alice Jane need to do is to find a
Ma-Loo, but that involves traveling to another Reality. Complicating the pair’s expedition are additional
members—Alice Jane’s dreamy boyfriend, Carl; Loretta, the Certified Tracking Puffin; and newlyweds Ceek and
Wergo. Problems and digressions abound: Carl gets pregnant, mysterious creatures constantly surface, and Alice Jane
and Wilkin face severe tests as they attempt to make desperate contact with a Ma-Loo—Greater or Lesser, any kind will
do. In Ammerman’s (Escape from Dorkville, 2015, etc.) final novel in his Warrensberg Trilogy, the prose is as sparkling
and witty as ever, and Wilkin and Alice Jane, a year older since readers last met them, make for entertaining and
engaging lead characters. The plot occasionally teeters under the weight of all the zaniness, and after a while a numbing
sameness threatens to fog the narrative’s initial cleareyed focus. Colorful players are fun for a while, but after
encountering a few too many Seussian characters (including Magnominious Jaymes Hiranacus III), the novelty starts to
wear off, leading to a mild case of are-we-there-yet blues. The novel should nevertheless please fans of the clever and
goofy, aka most middle-grade readers.
A satisfying—if meandering—wrap-up to a memorable series of adventures with an appealing pair of protagonists.
ESCAPE FROM DORKVILLE (Book 2 of The Warrensberg Trilogy)
Kabloona (202 pp.)
ISBN: 978-0-98-468224-9; August 10, 2015
BOOK REVIEW: STARRED REVIEW
It falls upon 14-year-old Wilkin Delgado and his partner in crime, tug-of-war-champion Alice Jane Zelinski, to save the universe again in the latest installment of Ammerman’s (Waiting for the Voo, 2014, etc.) adventures.
Fifteen-year-old Alice Jane knows she’s not cut out for the provincial life in “Dorkville,” aka Warrensberg, Minnesota. She misses Kansas City: “Here in Central Nowhere you can’t get real barbecue or honest-to-god hot sauce, all they play is polka music and they put corn in their gasoline.” Worse, since Alice Jane lives with her mom in Wilkin’s house, she also has to put up with the clueless 14-year-old. She has found a way to hang in there, managing her anger by getting in touch with her inner Chi. But relief soon appears in the form of old friend Cardamon Webb, who recruits Wilkin and Alice on yet another adventure to save the universe. Soon, Wilkin and Alice Jane are off on a quest, escaping Dorkville.
Their task is almost an impossible mission: the universe is drying up, and Cardamon suspects it’s a problem with fresh water at the Source. To get at the crux of the matter, the team must “travel from the Outside through the Inside to the Other Side” and “pay a visit to the All and Everything.” On the odyssey, they have to make pilgrimage stops at Carthrobrite Cave, the City of the Dead, and the Oracle of the Swamp, not to mention battle evil forces such as Maldavis Chum. The story is a little too glib when it glosses over Maldavis Chum’s “cleansing” activities, which involves killing hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s probably beyond the scope of this wild roller coaster ride. The familiar trope of heroes on a quest gets an enjoyable makeover with endearing Wilkin and spunky Alice Jane, who, along with their sidekicks, make for a lovable pair. As they narrate the adventure in alternating chapters, their distinctive personalities make for memorable storytelling. And how can any middle-grader resist a story that begins: “I now have a greater appreciation of toilets.”
Zany fun in an exciting adventure.
WAITING FOR THE VOO (Book 1 of The Warrensberg Trilogy)
Kabloona (162 pp.)
ISBN: 978-0984682232; August 27, 2014
“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.”
A 13-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl are pulled into an unexpected quest to save the universe in Ammerman’s (Anteater-Boy, 2011) comic fantasy for young readers. When Wilkin Delgado’s dad leaves, his mom’s friend Marie and her daughter, Alice Jane, move in with them. Shortly afterward, in order to supplement their income, Wilkin finds himself having to move out of his old room so that his mom can rent it out. Their first lodger is a strange old man named Cardamon Webb, whose arrival coincides with a number of other weird events, such as piles of dust bunnies appearing out of nowhere and the moon disappearing. Shortly thereafter, Cardamon reveals himself to the kids as a “plumber”—not an ordinary one, however, but someone whose job it is to plug up all of the holes in the universe when problems occur, such as demons from other dimensions bleeding through into our world. He enlists Wilkin and Alice Jane’s help to restore everything to normal.
Ammerman structures this clever, engaging story as a series of alternating first-person chapters narrated by Wilkin and Alice Jane, each with a strong voice whose authenticity and humor provide a sharp, deliberate contrast to the novel’s funny, fantastical occurrences. In a refreshing change of pace from the norm, these two kids, who dislike each other from the start, don’t grow to become friends by the end, which helps underscore the story’s playful bite. Over its course, characters such as Cardamon and another plumber, Philbus Trot, introduce the children to a charmingly apocalyptic mythology including the Gutrog, a terrifying reptilian creature who is the harbinger of the end times, and the Greater and Lesser Ma-Loos, other dark signs who are nonetheless apparently “cute.” This surprising tour through the universe may lack the satirical sophistication of Douglas Adams, but it often calls to mind his whimsy and comedic juxtaposition of the cosmic and the mundane.
Appealing middle-grade fantasy that doesn’t condescend; should appeal to young readers craving sci-fi adventure that is both pleasingly oddball and intelligently silly.