In case I never get back around to it, Whales on Stilts is a 4, a brilliant book that you should order right now so that they will be mailing it to you while you read this review. It is the first one of M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales, and it is controlled chaos filled with great scenes and lines. Lederhosen is chaos with some great scenes and lines.
Katie wants a break from being a crime-fighting detective of the occult, so she, Jasper, and Lily head to Moose Tongue Lodge to get away from it all and cash in a coupon. Most of the other guests are characters from other children's series, and oh no, the Quints are kidnapped that very day! Form a search party! Oh no, valuable necklace is stolen! Whodunnit?! Will Katie ever get her normal afternoon by the pool?!?
The tone is the same as Whales on Stilts: send-up of series fiction with strong absurdist influences. Take all the clichés and push them just a bit further, and use them all at once, from several non-complementary series. It is just not done as well here, since there is more absurd than glue to hold it all together. Things get silly before they get coherent.
The later parts of the book are better. Its establishing shots are more comprehensible and the absurd parts have better-defined areas to run wild. So if you want to read the whole thing, yes, it gets better as you go along.
Ideally, you will have a group of friends who want to read the book, so that one person can read it and highlight the parts that the rest of you will want. I would normally save the .5 ratings for books of essays and such, but there are enough good parts here that it really would be worth picking them out, even if things do not build upon one another successfully. You probably do not have such a group handy, so let me identify some things you will want to read in full, and skim the rest:
- Any time the Quints appear. They are comedy gold.
- The footnotes and Appendix B. Some of the best bits in comedy or philosophy get put in the footnotes.
- At least one scene with Professor Schmeltzer. He has just the one joke, and if you think you want to read it as a running joke, then by all means keep stopping when you see his name. He will do it every time.
- Page 71 is rather good.
- Page 83 is also golden if you know the Hardy Boys.
- Jasper's plight on the mountain, which is much more amusing if you are of an age where "death by snot" instills paroxysms of laughter.
- Any time the author is talking about himself.
- Our conclusion (lots of Quints after page 200) and the contemplative denouement about age.
- Anything that looks like an ad.
- The list of previous books in the series.
The character of Eddie is a fun idea, as he is the star of one of those books where the pet dies. You know, if there is a dog on the cover of a classic work of children's literature, that dog is doomed. Eddie never recovered from that, but his insanity does not fully mesh with the other insanity in the book. You should get a bit of him in the conclusion. If you want more, that's the name to watch for, Eddie or Stumpy.
Lots of good moments, not a great whole. If you want an absurdist take on series fiction, bump this up to a 3. If you have never heard of the Bobbsey Twins or Hardy Boys, skip it entirely. Still, read Whales on Stilts.