You have probably guessed this by now, if you’ve kept up with my posts on this site: I really like monsters. I especially like monsters when you get to peek behind their mask and see humanity there; that’s sort of the whole point of monsters and creatures in literature, I think.
I also really like funny, clever novels. I would like to put a heavy emphasis on clever. While I might laugh for a guy slipping on a banana peel, it won’t tickle me nearly as much as wordplay or dialogue.
Where can these two worlds, monsters and humor, become one? In any novel by A. Lee Martinez, that’s where.
I think I discovered Martinez while I serendipitously scanned the shelves at the Iowa City Public Library four or five years ago. I am incredibly indecisive when it comes to choosing library books, and a lot of the time it comes down to the cover. (Sad, I know.) The book I found was Gil’s All Fright Diner, and the cover is amazing. It looks like a horror movie poster from the 1950s.
Flipping the book over, I read the plot summary and almost swooned with excitement. Gil’s All Fright Diner is about a vampire, Earl, and a werewolf, Duke, who are friends. They are traveling through the South when they run out of gas; the nearest place is an all-night diner, which just happens to be an epicenter of demonic activity (sort of like the Hellmouth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Maybe part of the reason I love this book can be explained by its winning the 2006 Alex Award. This award is given to books that were published for adults, but that have young adult appeal. I do love a good YA novel.
Martinez is skilled at taking conventions that sci-fi/fantasy has and turning them on their heads. He makes fun of the genre while writing in it, and that makes for witty, often hysterical, prose.
If you’ve read any Christopher Moore, I think you’ll like A. Lee Martinez. Their plots, characters, and styles mesh really well; in fact, I would suggest reading a book like You Suck: A Love Story right before or after reading Gil’s All Fright Diner. A. Lee Martinez has also been compared to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman!
Here are some of Martinez’s other books. He has quite a few, which is always nice for a new reader. His books range from “urban fantasy” to “detective noir” to “comedic science fiction.” They are all worth reading.
Never Dead Ned only has one talent: he can resurrect himself. He goes into battle to fight the world’s most powerful demon, who happens to only be 19 inches tall. His companions include a siren, an Amazon, a two-headed ogre with sensitive feelings, and a wizard who is allergic to magic.
The heroine of this novel doesn’t have a name (who would have guessed?), but she does possess a craving for human flesh; she’s also immortal. She is joined by a killer duck named Newt and a gentle troll named Gwurm. Will she find love with the White Knight? Or will Soulless Gustav, an evil sorcerer, ruin everything?
This is a hardboiled robot novel. The main character, Mack Megaton, is a robot who is also a detective. He’s not like other robots, in that he is nice to humans. His neighbors go missing and Mack uses his robot and detecting skills to put out a search. There’s also a lovely lady in Mack’s life, but can she be trusted? This novel was perfect for me, since I can’t get into detective novels; the heaping dose of science fiction made it fun and fast-paced.
His newest book is Divine Misfortune, about a couple who calls on their own personal god for help. Luka, the god they end up with, is not what they thought he would be. At all.
Have you read anything by A. Lee Martinez? Let us know in the comments!