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Paul-Michael Agapow's review of 'The Hawkline Monster'
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The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan: A Postview

by Paul-Michael Agapow?

In the early 1900s, two professional killers travel to an isolated house. The (ubiquitous) mad professor has created his masterpiece, but then disappeared, leaving his two (also ubiquitous) beautiful daughters alone, a monster roving around the basement and strange things afoot...

"This sure is a weird place," Greer said.
"It ain't any weirder than Hawaii," Cameron said.
As it turned out, Cameron was wrong.

"The Hawkline Monster" is a strange book and probably uncategorisable. It was originally published in 1975, Brautigan being the author of the famous "Trout Fishing in America". It dips and weaves between genres, part gothic thriller, part morality tale, part 50s B-grade SF, part western. If you were looking for authors whose style was similar, there might be someone midway between Kurt Vonnegut? and Michael Moorcock?. As the two assassins (who "look about the same, except they had different features and different builds") drift closer to the heart of the mystery, they have circular conversations, encounter odd bystanders, hear ludicrous history recounted in a deadpan serious manner. Think "Lost Highway" meets "Frankenstein."

As a serious piece of speculative fiction then, "The Hawkline Monster" is not a contender. Hell, it's not even in the race. But it might be more accurately seen as a comedy, not a broad farce (a la Pratchett), a shaggy dog story (a la Asimov) or a sly dig (a la Zelazny). It's a dry but quirky tale, that stays just this side of dottiness. As such it's very funny and once again Vonnegut is the nearest reference point:

^"It (the monster) sounds like the combination of water being poured into a glass," Miss Hawkline said, "A dog barking and the muttering of a drunk parrot. And very, very loud."
"I think we're going to need the shotgun for this one," Cameron said.^
Perhaps not very deep, but entertaining as all get out. And at its length, it doesn't overstay its welcome.


The Linköping Science Fiction Fantasy Archive, 1997

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