Southern-Fried Mash-Up: Dread Island by Joe R. Lansdale

I think I’ve said this before, but if not I’ll say it again: Joe R. Lansdale is one of the best writers currently in a living, breathing, above-ground state of being. And by “one of” I’m talking, like, top three material.

I’ve also might have mentioned my disinterest in the current publishing trend of literary mash-ups (Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, Count Chocula Sits Down with Ezra Pound, etc.). They simply are not produced for me, hence my disinterest. I don’t hate them like some people seem to (there seems to be a lot of that going around: people passionately hating things that they clearly are not the intended market/audience for).

IDW Publishing’s upcoming “Classics Mutilated” anthology (prose, not comics, IDW is branching out I guess) is looking to change all that. See they’ve brought in a list of very talented writers to play the mashup game, and if this first preview book is any indication: homerun, IDW.

We’ll have to wait until the full anthology is released in October to see how twisted the other authors chose to get but they’ll have to seriously step it up to beat Lansdale.

His story can be summarized: Huck Finn and Jim meet up with Brer Rabbit and fight Cthulhu.

This isn’t some half-boiled Mark Twain fanfiction. Lansdale obviously has some serious love and respect for the source material, but that doesn’t stop him from laying the camp and humor on thick where he needs to (i.e. Cthulhu becomes “ole Cut Through You” in Huck’s dialect). I won’t go into synopsis beyond the premise above (it’s a little less than 80 pages, and had a few more surprise guests I don’t want to spoil) but I will say that I enjoyed the way that Lansdale gives a reason for all these characters to get mixed up together, thin as it may be.

It’s hard to tell where Lansdale’s anti-racism, skeptical of organized religion sensibilities end and Twain’s begin. The two writers obviously share a lot of ideas although they are separated by a century.

It may be a cliche, but the only problem I had with this book is that it ends. It’s funny, literate and (dare I say) a tad heartwarming. The only readers I would hesitate to recommend this to are those unfamiliar with the stories being mashed and for those readers I have two words: Project Gutenberg.

If you don’t want to wait for October for the anthology IDW has Dread Island available in a limited “Convention Edition” for 15 bucks.

(P.S. Count Chocula Sits Down with Ezra Pound is not a real literary mash-up, but it should be.)

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