by Greg Matthews ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 9, 1983
From a young Australian writer: an uninspired but extremely skillful sequel to the Twain masterpiece--reproducing the deadpan irony of Huck's narration (which is updated only in some mild raunchiness), if lacking both the comic invention and deeper resonances of the original. The new adventures for Huck and freed-slave Jim begin with a series of Missouri catastrophes: the Widow Douglas and Jim's whole family perish in a fire; Judge Thatcher is murdered--with hapless Huck found all bloody at the scene of the crime. So, once Huck escapes from jail, he and Jim are picaresque fugitives, with new aliases every day (a neat running gag), heading for the California Gold Rush. They tag along for a spell with the McSween Traveling Church of Christ the Lamb, a prettied-up whorehouse on wheels--fleeing with young Grace McSween (who's decided to regain her virginity) after a McSween uncle takes a perverse interest in Huck. They join a wagon train, get captured by Becky Thatcher's hired detective ""Bulldog"" Barrett, but escape again (in drag) with help from bossy Grace. . . only to be grabbed by Indians. (The rather stereotyped Redmen are slow-wittedly fascinated by Huck's rapid-fire sex changes.) Then it's on without Grace to Fort Laramie, befriended by Andrew, a poetry-writing shoe clerk from St. Louis--who falls dangerously in love with Lydia, a Colonel's culture-starved wife. But when they all flee together, from the Colonel and Bulldog, there's a temporary, surprisingly effective shift into darker tones: Andrew dying of cholera on the road, stricken Lydia bravely taking her own life soon after. And so on--across swamp and desert, constantly pursued by Bulldog (whose life Huck saves at one point), constantly running into Huck's supposedly-dead Pap (the real murderer), betrayed by numerous varmints and crazies. . . until, after a brief strike-it-rich near Sacramento, they're rescued from San Francisco penury by the reappearing Grace (now an actress) and cleared of all crimes. Readers who truly expect a Twain-level experience will be disappointed--by the long, unshapely form, by the absence of epic atmosphere, larger-than-life characters, or strong emotional undercurrents. But the comic diction here is just fine, each episode moves along nicely, the effects are never forced--and this is leisurely, likable entertainment on its own modest terms.
Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983
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