Del Rey, Mar 22 2011, $16.00
In 1844 in Zanesville, Ohio, clubfooted inventor Hephaestus Sitturd; his Seal islands Creole wife Rapture and their genius five years old son Lloyd receive an invitation to move to Texas. Hephaestus’s half-brother Micah claims they can make a fortune, but his message is enigmatic as he insists he cannot explain how on paper.
Although mystified by Micah’s odd note as war with Mexico seems imminent, the Sitturd family begins their odyssey across America. Lloyd a gifted inventor of oddities learns how to play poker from watching St, Ives a riverboat gambler with a mechanical hand containing a saber; they become partners. He works out the issue of humans flying and encounters robots masquerading as people after meeting the Professor and his two mute wives as ambassadors of Mars. It is Miss Viola who teaches him the ways of seduction as two ancient arcane societies continue their epochal war with one another over the future of humanity with each believing the brilliant Lloyd will be a tipping point. However it is teenage Hattie the escaped slave who teaches the lad how to love.
Starting in Zanesville but a couple of centuries earlier than Kris Saknussemm’s previous Zanesville dark futuristic thriller, preadolescent genius Lloyd holds the exhilarating but enigmatic tale together as he creates oddities and meets oddities. Lloyd learns from the masters while teaching his mentors as well. However, each time the audience feels comfortable, Kris Saknussemm throws a spitball that spins the moral code elsewhere. The author extrapolates the present values back to the nineteenth century arguing that the American dream is a nightmarish facade for most and a dream for few even as early as the Antebellum period.