My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Do you remember that scene in “Being John Malkovich” where Malkovich steps into his own head and winds up in a world where everyone is John Malkovich and says nothing but “Malkovich” repeatedly? Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk is kind of like that.
While it’s a satire/parody, it’s also a loving tribute to William Shatner. Taking place at Shatnercon. the Campellians (cultish followers of Bruce Campbell) plant a fiction bomb in the theaters where they’re showing Shatner’s past works. But something goes wrong, and instead of erasing Shatner’s work from everyone’s memory like it’s supposed to do, it brings all of Shatner’s characters to life. All of them!
I have to give Burk credit to bringing not only Shatner’s most famous roles like Captain Kirk or Denny Crane to life, but also some of the characters most people have likely forgotten, like the Star Trek Animated Series version of Kirk or his hosting duties on “Rescue 911” (who appears fairly often because, let’s face it, it’s a Jeff Burk bizarro novel, so there’s going to be a lot of violence). Some people will probably be in a state of nerd euphoria or nerd rage over the scene with a psychotic Captain Kirk wielding a working lightsaber. I personally blame Jeff Burk putting that idea out there which may have inspired the hiring of J.J. Abrams to direct the new Star Wars movie. Now let’s go tear down the observatory so this never happens again!
As a story it works. No really, it does. It definitely follows a pretty standard story structure. The literary depiction of Shatner and his characters is okay, although there’s clearly a reason these work better on screen than on the page. There are a couple of places where Burk breaks from the standard story, which at least leaves the reader guessing and prevents it from being completely predictable. There were some areas that I felt were lost opportunities, but then again those would have been what we expected him to do. One complaint I have is that Bob could have been much better developed and could have been a bigger part of the story. There was a lot of potential there.
And, I really hate to have to nitpick here, but again, editing mistakes get stuck in my craw. Mispellings, grammar errors, etc. I know I’m a stickler for this, but it’s important, and adds to the professional level of the work. While the editing errors in “Shatnerquake” aren’t as excessive as I’ve seen in some other books, there are enough and they start to add up.
All in all, Shatnerquake is amounts to an amusing tribute to William Shatner. It’s pretty clear how much of a fan Burk is to have payed that much attention to different parts of Shatner’s career. I mean, Hell, he actually mentions Tekwar, which I’m sure most people have forgotten by now. A solid story, and certainly entertaining, and despite the violence and such, I’d generally call it one of the “safer” bizarro novels and would be a decent entry point into the genre, assuming you can deal with that much Shatner. I say give it a whirl. It’s a fun ride.
Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk earns 3.5 phaser kills out of 5.
Oddly enough, to be continued in Shatnerquest…