by James P. Blaylock
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Gayle Surrette
Subterranean Hardcover: Limited / Trad ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596064546
Date: 31 August 2012 List Price $60.00 / $35.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Brendan swears he saw a mermaid in the waters of Lighthouse Beach. So Kathleen (usually called Perkins) and Perry are heading down to check out his story. On the way, they overhear a conversation between a neighbor and a woman they don't know, but later learn is Ms. Henrietta Peckworthy. It seems Peckworthy is checking up on the children's welfare and behavior and, if warranted, will take them to their Aunt Ricketts. The children really can't stand their aunt and plan to avoid Peckworthy as much as possible. Perry, Perkins, and Brandon live with their Uncle Hedge (John Toliver Hedgepeth) in his big house on the coast near Caspar, California. They all prefer to stay with their uncle.
Zeuglodon by James P. Blaylock is just the kind of book I loved to read when I was young -- surprise it's just the perfect book to read as an adult too and if you can arrange to read it to a young child that would make it even better. You see our narrator is Kathleen Perkins, it's essentially her diary of her adventure and a requirement for school since they'll miss several weeks as they follow up on the mermaid, a evil scientist who plans to rule the world, a strange family that felt as if they had been behind Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", and stay out of the clutches of Ms Peckworthy -- and thus Aunt Ricketts.
Blaylock manages to rekindle that sense of wonder readers felt when they read the first book that made them feel that anything and everything is possible. And most importantly that children were totally capable of handling the hardships and danger of an adventure.
The voice of Perkins is delightful as she relates the story, with asides on what she thought of the things they were told to do, what the other characters were up to, and the actual feelings she had about what was happening to her. Once I started reading, I just couldn't put the book down. I had to find out what would happen to the children and, of course, would good win over evil this time. Lots of twists in the plot and surprises along the way as it seems that no one is entirely what you thought they were -- though you might be very sure of your expectations.
All in all a delightful and entertaining tale of adventure.