My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t usually do this, but I need to warn about spoilers for this one, because it’s pretty much impossible to write a review for this book without revealing certain things. You’ve been warned.
Shatnerquest by Jeff Burk is odd to review. Not necessarily difficult, just odd. There’s something about it that works. It’s silly. It’s violent. It’s plain weird. But somehow, the stars aligned for this one, and it works…mostly. It’s also odd in that it wasn’t actually supposed to happen. When Jeff Burk published Shatnerquake, he listed among his works Shatnerquest and Shatnerpocalypse. At the time, this was supposed to be a joke. These books didn’t actually exist. So, Shatnerquest is a satire born out of another joke. Jeff Burk needs to be careful or else he’s going to create a satirical black hole that will swallow all comedy as we know it.
The first thing you may ask is how this book relates to Shatnerquake, given the way that one ended. Well, it does and it doesn’t. That one’s hard to explain. Starting out during a Magic: The Gathering tournament at SuperCoolCon, the apocalypse occurs. Again. And this one is both a bad one and awesome at the same time. Every being from science fiction and fantasy becomes real and lays waste to civilization. Godzilla, zombie Borg, etc. There’s even a Dalek that is an actual exterminator of tribbles. Benny, Janice, and Gary, along with Benny’s cat Squishy, all wearing Starfleet uniforms (including Squishy in a red shirt) decided that the thing to do during this apocalypse is to go save William Shatner. Hey, everyone needs a hobby, even during Armageddon. On their cross-country trip to Los Angeles, they are pursued by Koloth, another nerd who’s dressed as a Klingon and leads a white supremacist biker gang who all wear Klingon forehead ridges. Yep, you read that right.
While Shatnerquake was a satirical tribute to William Shatner, Shatnerquest is a satirical tribute to all things nerdy. Even as passing mentions, just about everything nerdy appears in this book. It’s like one gigantic ComicCon, all the way up to the final confrontation with Shatzilla and the Takei (who’s portrayed as a parody of Mothra; guess what his battle cry is; go on, I dare you!). How does this story relate to Shatnerquake? Well, again, it does and it doesn’t. It makes reference to the events of that book, but that’s all. So you should be safe in reading this book if you haven’t read the other one.
As for Jeff Burk’s writing style, you can tell how much he’s matured since writing Shatnerquake. Well, matured in a relative sense. His prose is a lot cleaner and he can get the ideas across much better. Not that he was bad to begin with, but his experience since writing Shatnerquake shows. He even dares to break the fourth wall a couple of times, as the characters state at one point that some things aren’t how they’re portrayed in the source material and that they’re firmly in parody territory now. It was rather striking when he did that, but funny all the same.
There are still some editing issues, which has always been a sticking point for me. They’re not as bad in Shatnerquest though, especially given that this book is twice as long as Shatnerquake, so they’re spaced out a little better. Granted that they still add up, but it’s not as much of an issue here. Yes, this is a much longer novel than Shatnerquake, and it works in that form very well, although by the end I was ready for it to stop. Burk does push it right up to the line of tolerance. Still, it shows that Burk can writing a longer-form novel, and I’d actually like to see what else he can write in that form.
A good tribute all things nerdy, Shatnerquest by Jeff Burk earns 4 redshirted cats out of 5.