Review: Gus Openshaw’s Whale Killing Journal

Rating: ★★★½☆
Gus Openshaw’s Whale Killing Journal
by Keith Thomson

If you read only one happy-go-lucky account of whale slaughter this year…

Gus Openshaw is just your average joe, seeking to make a life with his wife and new son. When his plans are thwarted by an angry whale (who swallows his family whole, along with Gus’s right arm), Gus must find a way to make that all-too-common transition from humble catfood cannery worker into whale hunting avenger. This is easier said than done, especially considering that in these kinder, gentler days whale killing is generally frowned upon. One is certain to become entangled in all sorts of legal fiascos. But that’s only the beginning – mutinous crews, renegade princesses, foreign navies, discount arms dealers, and (of course) pirates all serve to make Gus’ adventures a sight more interesting than he’d like.

Readers of Keith Thomson’s previous work, “Pirates of Pensacola” (which I hereby declare the official 2005 Bilgemunky Book of the Year) will recognize several nods and references as Gus travels throughout the Caribbean, including occasional visits to the Spice Islands. Also familiar will be Thomson’s love of creating unique, bizarre, quirky, and dangerous characters, and then putting them into a world just skew of reality. But where “Pirates of Pensacola” was kept in check enough to be nearly believable, with “Gus Openshaw” Thomson has thrown caution to the wind entirely, allowing mechanical squids, mind-bogglingly stupid crewmates, and Bob the Rat to make frequent appearances. But by casting all observations through the eyes of Gus’ dry, blue-collar matter-of-fact personality, even the ludicrous becomes almost believable, and highly comical.

Ivy-league torturers named Kip, farts used as an offensive weapon, whale-worshipping island nations with broadband internet connections, Yahoo – it’s all here, and it’s all good.