My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can see some people looking at the cover for The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island by Cameron Pierce and saying, “Aw! That’s so cute. What could be more innocent than a pickle and a pancake falling in love?” To those people I say, “You haven’t read Cameron Pierce before, have you?”
This story is what I would imagine someone would come up with if they had an acid flashback while staring into their refrigerator. It involves a pickle named Gaston Glew from the Pickled Planet, a planet who people and very environment exist in an eternal briny sadness. Gaston Glew is not satisfied being stuck in sadness and believes that happiness, or at least not-sadness, must exist somewhere in the universe. So he leaves his planet and crashes on Pancake Island, a world where everyone is eternally happy and is the last happy place in the universe. While Gaston Glew falls in love with Fanny Fod, a beautiful pancake who is responsible for the world’s happiness, things end up going from bad to worse for our heroes.
As one would expect from Cameron Pierce, there’s sex and violence without apology in this book, although it is toned down a little from some of his other works I’ve read. The prose is excellent and flows like rich maple syrup. The character are likeable if tragic in a way, and even though Gaston Glew can occasionally come off as a bit of a phallus (word changed to get through censorship scanners; you know what I mean), he’s still identifiably flawed.
Some might focus on the book’s commentary on social norms as they relate to depression and happiness, and, yes, I can see this. It could easily be argued the Pierce is putting an almost childish veneer on a story about being trapped in sadness and depression, but how those in persistent states of happiness can act like complete idiots, and a search for a happy medium. After all, the only characters who actually achieve anything in this story are those who suffer from at least some sadness, while the characters who are eternally happy do nothing but dance and act like idiots. It’s simple, but in its own way it works.
Occasionally, logic needs to get thrown out the window for the sake of the story, such has how Gaston Glew’s rocket boosters actually work. However, if you’ve read Pierce before, you’ll expect him to play with physical rules a little bit. I mean, this is a book about living pickles and pancakes, so how realistic can it actually get? Still, it does stretch the limits in suspending disbelief a few times, even for a story that runs on cartoon physics.
Overall, it’s a good story with bizarro elements that’s comparatively tame but definitely not innocent. With serious flawed but identifiable characters and easy, smooth prose, I feel comfortable giving this one a recommendation.
The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island by Cameron Pierce earns 4 pints of maple syrup out of 5.