Jo LaRouche has lived her thirteen years in the California desert with her aunt Lily, a faded Hollywood starlet, ever since she was found in the laundry room with this note pinned to her blanket:
This is Jo. Please take care of her.
This is a DANGEROUS baby.
Up until this point, Jo hasn’t been dangerous at all. But that’s about to change. At Lily’s annual Christmas costume party, several strange things happen: a boy in a hedgehog costume shoots an elderly Russian colonel; a human-sized talking cockroach is found tied up in the basement, moaning about how this will play out in the tabloid press; and a box falls from the sky, addressed to Jo from the Order of Odd-Fish.
Jo joins up with Colonel Korsakov, whose every action is dictated by his digestion, and Sefino, an incredibly narcissistic cockroach butler. They are soon being chased by a Chinese millionaire whose one and only goal in life is to become the world’s most evil man. They wind up in Eldritch City, where Jo becomes squire to a knight of the Order of Odd-Fish. The Order is at work creating an appendix of “dubious facts, rumors, and myths…a repository of questionable knowledge, and an opportunity to dither about”.
Eldritch City itself may qualify as another character. It’s like Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl got together and tried to out-weird each other.
There Jo learns why she is considered dangerous, and why she must hide her true identity from her new friends. The Belgian Prankster (a villain who wears goggles and a rawhide diaper) wants to bring about the destruction of Jo’s new home by waking the terrible and dreaded Ichthala, the All-Devouring Mother. Jo must outwit him and face her own strange destiny.
I read the description on the inside cover and I had to buy The Order of Odd-Fish. I wasn’t disappointed. This book is awesome. It’s incredibly bizarre; very Monty Python-esque with a bit of Lovecraft crashing the party. The oddball adventure is neatly balanced with a slight touch of horror, and it’s a lot of fun. Sefino is far and away my favorite character and I loved the sideplot about his problems with the newswriter at the Eldritch Snitch.
This book is marketed as young adult, but anyone who enjoys eccentric storytelling and ridiculous humor would love this book. The story may be off the wall, but it’s incredibly engaging. You never know where it’s going and it leads to unexpected places.
“After that, everyone had the leisure to start screaming.”
5 out of 5 stars – highly recommended