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ISBN-10: 1-55404-509-6
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 399 Pages
Published: November 2007
Total Readers: 1

From inside the flap

In the year 1881, the moon suddenly begins to turn around and reveal its long-hidden darker side to the startled world. While most of Humanity finds the event fascinating, two British explorers know the horrible truth. The rotating moon is the legendary sign that foreshadows the return of a prehistoric demon, the monstrous destroyer of Atlantis, an unkillable colossus known only as the deadly, dreaded Squid God. Racing around the world, and against the clock, Prof. Einstein and Lord Carstairs battle the fanatical legions of Squid God worshippers in a valiant effort to stop the ghastly rebirthing ceremony and keep the demonic mollusk locked in the stygian depths of its unearthly lair. Authors Nick Pollotta & James Clay have lovingly crafted a splendid Fantasy/Adventure, heavily laced with their classic off-the-wall humor, and sprinkled with a light dusting of parody toward the legendary works of H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and just about everything else from the golden glory days of Victorian England.

Reviews and Awards

Fiction Review: That Darn Squid God

Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing (2007)
Reviewed by Leanne Tough

That Darn Squid God by Nick Polotta and James Clay (aka Phil Foglio of the Girl Genius webcomic) is a Lovecraftian parody, a rip-roaring romp through an alternative Victorian world filled to the brim with cultists, secret societies, and elegant ladies who can certainly handle their own. Professor Einstein (no, not that Einstein) has predicted that the end of the world is nigh. He is shocked that his associates do not realise the same. In a typically Lovecraftian beginning, he has delved too deep and knows too much–and thus made himself a target. With his chosen sidekick, Carstairs, an up-and-coming in their Gentleman’s Club, Einstein fights against time and forces unknown to save the world. Which makes it all sound terribly serious–but this book after all is a parody and as such thrives on the ability to surprise you and make you laugh. An example of this can be found on the front cover, if not in the title itself. The comical, cartoon-like Squid God towering over Big Ben with the tagline ‘It’s the end of the world. How bloody inconvenient’does not lend itself to your usual Cthulu-based novel. I think it’s the sardonic, stereotypically British language that makes me laugh the hardest.

The novel is well written, eminently readable and a lot of fun. Despite it being a parody of Lovecraft’s style and mythos, it by no means belittles it. I’d go so far as to say it is part of the tradition of writers on the Cthulu mythos since Lovecraft. The writers play with the mythos as much as any novelist writing a serious Lovecraftian novel. There are many recognisable elements, such as the cultists and the unknown fearsome powers, and of course the many-tentacled God himself. In some cases, it’s still just as creepy–even if the creepiness is almost immediately washed away with laughter. Saying this, you don’t have to have read Lovecraft’s work to enjoy this book–but I dare say it helps.

Personally, I think this book is brilliant and have already recommended it to my Lovecraft-loving friends. And due to this, I’m also looking forward to Polotta’s next novel, Solomon, which is out in November–which I’ve been promised leans heavily towards the Steampunk genre.
"Wonderful parody! Lots of calamari." WHISPERS UNDER THE STAIRS

“‘That Darn Squid God” rewrites literary history, remodels London worse than the Blitz, and convinces that it is wise never to deny the supremacy of British womanhood! What more can you ask?” ANALOG SF MAGAZINE

“Nick Pollotta is the funniest man in SF!”
GENE WOLFE, two-time Nebula Award winner

“Funny, compelling and an absolute pleasure to read. The finest comedy/fantasy I have read this year!” ETERNAL NIGHT SF MAGAZINE

“Delightfully entertaining!” Robin Wood

“It’s not often a book of this nature comes along and you do not want to miss it. Pollotta and Clay are trying to corner humorous fantasy and this tale gives them a firm foundation.”

“Set in Victorian England in the year 1881, That Darn Squid God is an hilarious parody of the otherworldly mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, strewn with delightful trappings of mystery and magic. Tongue-and-cheek humor with a fresh, and fast-paced, narrative style set apart That Darn Squid God as a fantastically funny end-of-the-world ride.” MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

“…and those who hunt the night alone,
With sword and gun, with cross and bone,
Will sneer at Death, and refuse to kneel,
When graveyard chimes being to peal…”
from ‘Heroes, or Idiots?’
author unknown


Chapter One

Swirling fog ruled the London night.

Stepping from a horse-drawn carriage into the thick mist, Professor Felix Einstein paused on the sidewalk, and briefly consulted the small glass globe in his hand. Trapped in the middle of the crystalline sphere was a mummified Egyptian tarantula that remained motionless under his hard scrutiny. The professor relaxed at the sign that there was no evil magic in the immediate vicinity. At least, for the moment.

Satisfied for the nonce, Professor Einstein tucked the talisman away once more into his greatcoat. Dressed like a Bow Street banker, Einstein sported an Inverness cape over his gray-striped suit and Oxford school tie, with the mandatory small porridge stain. His craggy face was deeply tanned, and the silver highlights in his wavy hair almost perfectly matched the silver lion head of his ebony walking cane. The inner pocket of his coat bulged with an Adams .32 revolver. Looped across his waistcoat was a gold watch chain with a petrified shark’s tooth dangling at the end as a fob. Jutting from a pocket of his vest was an embossed case containing numerous calling cards that merely listed his name, address, and a few dozen of his titles. His real profession was not among them.

Starting to address the waiting cabby, Professor Einstein frowned as he caught a gale of merriment coming from the nearby building. Eh? In the expert opinion of the professor, a tribe of Zulu warriors performing the Mexican hat dance could not have been more incongruous than the loud laughter, which came from the ground floor windows of the five-story brownstone building dominating the block.

Over the past few weeks, Einstein had noticed that the weather patterns of the entire world were steadily becoming worse: snow in Egypt, tornadoes in the Amazon jungle, bright sunshine in Liverpool, and such. Yet those were merely side effects of the coming apocalypse.

So who could possibly be laughing at such a dire time as this? the professor demanded irritably. Surely not my fellow club members! Maybe the fog distorted the noise of some distant party so that it seemed nearby? Yes, of course, that must be the answer. How obvious.

"Best stay sharp, Davis," Professor Einstein said, reaching upward to shake hands with the burly driver. The complicated procedure took a few moments as thumbs, fists, knuckles, tickling and slapping were involved. It seemed more like a friendly fight between the two men than a salutation.

"I’d recommend a routine number nine," Einstein added as they eventually let go.

"My very thought," Davis whispered, checking the iron cudgel tucked into his wide leather belt. The ’Liverpool Lawgiver’ was worn from constant use, and appeared as formidable as a consort Navy battleship. "Just you look for me, and I’ll be there, governor."

"Good man."

Giving a wink, Davis shook the reins, and started the two draft horses away from the curb at a gentle canter. The cab vanished into the billowing clouds, and soon there was only the rattling echo of its wooden wheels on the cobblestones: a sound that faded away in ghostly fashion.

Shaking off his uneasy feeling, Professor Einstein checked the loaded pistol in his pocket before starting along the sidewalk towards the giant brownstone. Then the odd laughter sounded again, louder this time, and most definitely from the club. Outrageous! With an annoyed snort, Einstein began to stride impatiently towards the towering downtown mansion.

Reaching the front of the huge building, Professor Einstein ambled up the worn marble stairs with his mind still on the strange laughter. Einstein was quite aware that at any given time one could be almost sure that the leader of some newly returned expedition would be regaling the assembled members with his latest tales of derring-do, heavily embellished with sound effects, visual aids and the unwilling cooperation of the nearest staff member. In point of fact, the London Explorers Club was the only establishment in England that was forced to offer its servants combat pay. But raucous laughter when the world was on the brink of destruction? Professor Einstein frowned in consternation. Most unseemly. He had sincerely hoped that at least some of the other members would have been able to read the portents of the coming apocalypse. Perhaps he was wrong.

Pushing open the brassbound mahogany door, Einstein entered the mansion and handed his Inverness cape, hat, and cane to a doorman, who in turn passed them to a liveried page. Taking a deep breath, the professor stood for a precious moment to let the warm air seep into his bones. The pungent atmosphere was thick with the homey smell of wood polish, pipe smoke, and cordite. Ah, home, sweet home!

Just then, another burst of laughter arose, only to be abruptly cut off by a man’s stern voice. Einstein tried to catch what was being said, but it was rapidly drowned out by a new upwelling of mirth. The noise seemed to be coming from the Great Hall. In spite of the urgency of his mission, the professor was forced to admit that this was becoming interesting. There was an unwritten law in the club that one had best know when to stick to the truth and when one could embellish a story a bit. A law that many bent, but few actually broke. Sadly, there were always a significant number of expeditions that encountered nothing more exciting than fetid jungles, smarmy natives, and dull animals that were so patently stupid that they would wander directly in front of you and politely wait while you dug the old .577 Martini-Henry bolt-action out of your haversack and did them the favor of blowing out their brains. But those were tales hardly worth repeating.

Proceeding quickly down the center passageway, Professor Einstein turned left at a suit of Spanish armor and entered the Great Hall. No exaggeration had been used to name the room, as it was a good three hundred paces long, its oak beam ceiling an arrow-flight away. The parquet floor, formed of four-inch-square wooden blocks, was dotted with a hundred islands of India rugs and velvet smoking chairs, while in the center of the room, a tiered Italian fountain quietly burbled and splashed. Lining the walls were mammoth bookcases containing over a million leather bound tomes, most of them first editions, or handwritten journals. High above this grandeur, on the second story balcony, was a beautifully sculptured bronze bust of Marco Polo, the patron saint of explorers, dutifully keeping watch over his modern-day students.

Crowding around a blazing fireplace, a group of club members surrounded a display table. Placed prominently on that scarred expanse of dark oak was a small wooden ship, barely a foot in length. A single low cabin was in the middle of the deck of the tiny vessel. No sails or masts were visible, and the rudder was broken.

"By God, Carstairs," Lord Danvers laughed from underneath a bushy Royal British Marine moustache. "You’ll have to do better than that!"

"Rather," Dr. Thompkins snorted, dipping his red nose once more into a half-empty whiskey glass. "Balderdash, I say. Violates the unwritten law. Noah’s Ark, indeed."

In righteous indignation, Lord Benjamin Carstairs rose to his full height. No hat was necessary for him to tower over the other members.

In cold scrutiny, Professor Einstein could see the fellow must be over six feet tall, and nineteen, maybe twenty stone in weight, with not an ounce of fat on the heavily muscled, almost Herculean frame. The giant was dapper. A three-piece suit of a brown worsted material perfectly complemented his stiff white shirt and striped Oxford tie. His lantern jaw was painfully clean-shaven, while the pale brown hair and blue eyes clearly announced a Saxon heritage.

Oh well, nobody’s perfect, the Norman-descended Einstein observed wryly.

"I stand on my earlier statement, sirs," Lord Carstairs said calmly, resting a tanned hand on the little craft. "You have seen my journals and read my analysis. This ship was found on the peak of Mt. Ararat, hidden in a stratified gully just below the snow line. It is made of 4,000-year-old gopher wood and sealed with crude pitch. To scale, it is of the proper dimensions, and perfectly matches the description of the craft in the Book of Genesis, Chapters Six Through Ten. I Believe That It Was Constructed By Noah Ben Lamech, as a working model, before he built the actual sea-going Ark itself."

Once more, guffaws filled the air and some rude soul added a juicy American raspberry.

"Good evening, gentlemen," Professor Einstein said loudly, interrupting the brouhaha.

In prompt response, the boisterous crowd stopped making noise and turned smartly about.

"Felix, old boy!" Baron Edgewaters shouted, his bushy beard appearing to weigh more than his prominent belly. "Excellent timing, as always. We’ve got a real wowser for you this time."

"Lad claims to have found a relic off of Noah’s Ark, by gad!" Lord Danvers chortled, taking another healthy gulp. "Thinks he can fool us the way Thomson did in ’74, with his ’continent under Antarctica’ theory. Haw!"

"How wonderful," Einstein snorted, dismissing the matter with a gesture. "He found Noah’s Ark. My heartiest congratulations. But I have even more pressing news to convey."

"I said a model, not the Ark itself, sir," Carstairs corrected primly.

The professor shrugged. "Whatever you wish. It is of no consequence."

"Indeed? And what could be more important than this?" Lord Danvers demanded, stroking his moustache. "The end of the world?"

Eagerly opening his mouth to speak, Professor Einstein was cut off by Lord Carstairs.

"And exactly who are you, sir?" the lord asked.

"Haven’t you two fellows ever met before?" Dr. Thompkins gasped in wonderment, rising from a chair.

"No," they replied in unison.

"But this calamity must be corrected with all due haste!" Colonel Pierpont declared, adjusting his pince-nez glasses and assuming an authoritarian pose. "Carstairs, might I introduce Professor Felix Einstein of the International British Museum, a private concern? Einstein, may I introduce Lord Benjamin Carstairs of Heather Downs, Preston?"

With both hands clasped behind his back, Lord Carstairs nodded in greeting. "A pleasure, sir. I have read your books on archeology with the greatest of interest. Particularly your monograph on the feasibility of the idea that Stonehenge is a form of solar calendar."

Impatiently, Einstein accepted the compliment with what grace he could muster under the circumstances. "A minor work. And I have more than a passing acquaintance with your own journals, sir. Your theories on the possible Aztec origin of the Easter Island statues are most impressive."

"Thank you."

"And if it will speed things along, as a senior member of the club, I officially acknowledge and congratulate you on your find," Einstein continued. "For this is not a model as you suppose, but the actual Ark itself."

The roomful of explorers went stock-still at that, as if a live woman had entered the club.

"A - are you crazed, Felix?" Sir Lovejoy erupted in shock, going even more pale than usual. "The craft is barely a foot long! How in the name of Queen Victoria could that toy carry seven and two of every animal on the face of the earth?"

"Explain yourself, sir!" Dr. Thompkins demanded.

Quite exasperated, Professor Einstein closed his eyes so that nobody would see him roll them about. Ye gods, plainly no other topic of conversation will be considered until this trifling matter is resolved. So be it.

"Jeeves!" the professor shouted over a shoulder.

Instantly, the liveried butler appeared in the doorway as if he had been waiting for the explosive summons. "Yes, sir?" he drawled, exhibiting proper English servitude.

"Fresh gasogenes, please," Einstein commanded, thoughtfully rubbing his lucky shark’s tooth. "Every bloody one we have."

This gave Jeeves pause. There was a barely used soda water dispenser on the liquor cart right beside the man. Why would he wish additional reservoirs? And every one? For a club like the Explorers, that meant several dozen, at the very least. Then the butler went cold. Oh no, he prayed fervently, not another re-enactment of the Amazon rain forest. Anything but that.

"Wasn’t aware that you’ve recently been to the Amazon, Felix," Lord Danvers said, refilling his glass as the somber butler shuffled away.

Ignoring that comment, Professor Einstein stolidly waited until Jeeves returned moments later. Experience being a bitter teacher, the butler wore a Macintosh overcoat and rubber boots as he pushed along a trolley loaded with several small wooden crates full of gasogenes: soda water dispensers. Plus, an umbrella and a bucket.

"Thank you, Jeeves," Professor Einstein said politely, taking a gasogene from the trolley. The umbrella and bucket were a wise precaution, but unnecessary in this particular instance. "Now please give one of these to everybody in the room."

As the butler distributed the dispensers, Einstein moved the display table to the center of the hall. Now armed with gasogenes, everybody waited to see what would happen next. Felix Einstein had a well-deserved reputation of pulling rabbits out of his hat. That bizarre museum of his was a prime example.

Exercising extraordinary care, Professor Einstein aligned the tiny ship so that its keel was directed lengthwise down the room. The wood felt dry as dust to his touch. His fingers stuck slightly to the craft, which certainly seemed to substantiate his theory about its origins. With extreme fastidiousness, the professor made one last minute correction in the ship’s placement. Yes. Good enough.

"On my mark, gentlemen, hose the ark with water," Einstein said, assuming a firing stance. "Ready, aim…"

The encircling crowd was plainly delighted beyond words, while the stunned Lord Carstairs lowered his gasogene. "Are you sure this is prudent?" he asked in real concern.

"Fire!" Professor Einstein cried, triggering his dispenser. A sparkling gush of effervescence splashed onto the minuscule craft. The stream of water hit it squarely, yet not a single drop of liquid rolled off the vessel to land on the table. Then an ominous creaking sound came from the wooden boat.

"All of you! Act now!" Einstein barked over the hissing spray of carbonated water. "Spray quickly, or the ship will tear itself apart!"

It was more the whip-crack tone of the professor’s voice than anything else that made the other members comply. In an orchestrated attack, they sent several streams of carbonated water gushing onto the relic, washing over it from stern to bow and back again.

As the pressure in the gasogenes eventually became exhausted, the rush of soda water slowed to a trickle. The last dribbles fell from the spouts to spot the India rug.

"Astonishing," Duke Farthington whispered, staring at the little boat. It was barely damp. Definitely, something strange was going on here.

With a bizarre sucking noise, the pools of moisture around the craft disappeared into the hull. Before the startled eyes of the club members, the desiccated craft began to swell like some impossible sponge. With incredible speed, the expanding ship outgrew the display table, the enlarging pushing aside a vacant chair and smashing a lamp.

"Get back!" Colonel Pierpont cried out, throwing both hands skyward and accidentally knocking off his pince-nez glasses.

No further prompting was needed for the startled club members to dive for safety. With a loud crack, the display table broke apart and crashed to the floor. Rapidly, the ark continued to increase in size in every direction, all the while creaking and groaning as if was being tortured on the high seas. Five yards, ten, twenty yards in length it reached, before the rate of growth noticeably slowed.

"By Jove!" Baron Edgewaters roared, crouching behind an ottoman. "Look at that! The bloody thing actually is Noah’s Ark!"

"Indubitably," somebody said from the other side of the craft.

"This is dehydration on a scale unheard of in the entire civilized world!" added another unseen member from the general vicinity of the prow.

"Or England," a patriotic chap added, from behind the window curtains.

"Congratulations, Benjamin!" Lord Danvers boomed from under the liquor cart.

Wriggling from their hiding places, the entire assemblage gathered around Lord Carstairs and gave him a thunderous round of applause. Beaming in unabashed pleasure, Carstairs suddenly took on a pained expression and pointed in horror. Everybody turned just in time to see the still slowly expanding prow of the vessel nose into the trough of the bubbling fountain.

"Bloody hell," Professor Einstein whispered, taking a step backwards.

There came a loud slurping noise, closely followed by a mighty groan of tormented wood, and the ark exploded into double its size. More than fifty yards in length, the vessel loomed over the scrambling men as it continued to grow, rapidly filling the Great Hall. With the sound of shattering stone, the fountain noisily collapsed and the ship settled over the stony remains, precipitating a great column of water that washed over the ship and yielded yet another massive spurt of growth.

"The mains!" Lord Carstairs shouted to the staff members who were staring in wonder through the doorway. "Turn off the water mains!"

Obediently, one of the servants spun about and dashed down the hall.

His mind swirling with dire mathematics, Professor Einstein could only scowl at the monstrosity forming before them. Two and seven of every animal on the earth. How big would the Ark get? Answer: too damn big. This was definitely not good!

Like a wooden express train, the traveling prow violently rammed into the fireplace, smashing the hearth, and tilting the oil painting of Her Royal Majesty. As the portrait fell, the stern of the ship slammed into the far wall, shattering the plaster and causing the bust of Marco Polo to rip free from its pedestal on the second floor balcony. As the massive bronze statue plummeted straight towards a horrified Jeeves, Lord Carstairs surged forward to shove the man aside. The heavy bust crashed onto Carstairs instead, the savage blow driving the lord to his knees as he barely managed to deflect the three hundred pounds of metal onto a seventh century pirate’s chest. Even over the creaking of the Ark, the splintery explosion of the chest from the meteoric impact was clearly discernable.

White-faced and trembling, Jeeves had trouble speaking for a moment. "Y-you saved my life," the butler finally stammered, his nerveless fingers dropping the umbrella to the floor.

"Think nothing of it," Carstairs panted, flexing his hands to stop the stinging. "I’m sure you would have done the same for me."

Tilting his head, Jeeves glanced at the quarter-ton of metal explorer lying in the splintered midst of what had once been a sturdy steamer trunk. "Quite so," the manservant remarked in dry sincerity.

Now from beneath the Ark there came a series of squeaks and a banging metallic rattle. Its growth immediately slowed. With a final groaning lurch that shattered the eastern skylight, the titanic craft thankfully went still.

"By Gadfrey!" a member whispered in askance, wiggling free from between the broken rudder and a bookcase. "And I thought Williamson’s recounting of his trip to Lake Geneva exciting."

Battered but undamaged, the explorers slowly crawled out from under the furniture, and dusted themselves off while staring at the impossible vessel. Going to the remains of the liquor cabinet, Lord Danvers poured himself a stiff drink.

Professor Einstein straightened the Queen’s portrait back on the wall. Better.

"Damnation, sir," Duke Farthington cried out, clapping Lord Carstairs on the shoulder. "But you’re a hard act to follow!"

Breaking into nervous laughter, the younger members began clearing aside the assorted debris, while the senior members contemplated the Biblical behemoth filling the hall.

"Of course, how we will get it out of here is another matter entirely," Lord Danvers observed, finishing his whiskey.

"Damned inconvenient, holding meetings with this hanging above our heads," Judge Foxthington-Symthe stated, thoughtfully stroking one of his many chins. "We could always just tear down a wall or two and ease it out into the back courtyard. Make a fine gazebo, it would. Impress the neighbors no end."

All work paused as everybody turned to stare at the judge.

"Outside?" a man asked.

"Where it rains?" another questioned.

The entire group of explorers paled at those words and looked at the Ark with growing expressions of horror. Exactly what were they to do with this thing?