The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard begins brilliantly odd and piratey, and ends the same. And in the middle – it’s still wonderfully odd, although the piratey elements tend to waver a bit. The reason is simple – while the tale begins in the Caribbean, and smack in the middle of the golden age of piracy, the adventure soon carries us to the far reaches of the galaxy, where cats talk and baseball players (or the galactic equivelant) are worshipped as demigods and duly appointed to public office.
Brownbeard is the cousin of the famous pirate Blackbeard. He sets off from his accounting job to be a pirate of his own, and soon finds himself meeting with gremlins and aliens, and eating all sorts of weird things. Author Alan J. Levine has a strange sense of humor, reveling in the dryly ridiculous, while also enjoying a good pun or two. Sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s just weird. But it’s always unexpected, and generally quite entertaining. The book is at its best when Blackbeard makes his appearances, while it wavers a bit when Levine indulges his apparent love of unusual word combinations (the “arrival of effluent-of-sweet-rose-and-Chinese-lemon-chicken-and-matzah-ball-soup”, for example.) But mostly, it’s just entertainingly strange. Piracy is mostly a side-issue, frequently tucked behind the more prominent interstellar travels. But this creates a platform form some wonderful wit – Levine’s humor is at its very best when making dry observations about otherwise absurd situations – a character’s sudden concern when attempting to rescue enslaved dogs by feeding them enchanted chocolate chip cookies (after all, Brownbeard points out – doggies are allergic to chocolate) is so wonderfully odd that one can’t help but smile.
The Adventures of Short Stubbly Brownbeard is delighfully deranged, if not always piratey. It would be a fine read for those who find humor in the ludicrous. And while I’m not certain if it was intended specifically for younger audiences, it would likely be particuarly suited for adolescent readers.