It was Stewart from Booklit wot did it!  His review of No Word From Gurb impossible to ignore.  Seeking some gender balance in the midst of my Orangeathon, I dived in. I haven’t laughed as hard or as loud in a public place since I read the novels of Tom Sharpe.

Barcelona is invaded by two shape-shifting aliens.  Seeking to blend in with the locals, the alien Gurb assumes the shape of Madonna (!) before emerging from the ship.  He promptly disappears and his  captain must now venture into the unknown to search for his colleague.  The captain has done his research.  He knows much about this “simple” planet.  Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the reader, he has no idea of how to apply his knowledge.  The comic surprises that follow are both surprising and  hysterical.  For example.  The alien knows that urine is a common liquid.  He doesn’t know that it’s not something to be ordered in restaurants.  He is logical.  Human society, in particular, Barcelona in the runup to the 1992 Olympics, is anything but.  The alien narrator is deadpan – he cannot see the potholes (both literal and figurative) that are waiting for him to fall into.   

15.00 Decide to make a systematic search of the city instead of remaining in one spot. […] Set off following the ideal heliographic plan I built into my internal circuits on leaving the ship. Fall into a trench dug by the Catalan Gas Company.

15.02 Fall into a trench dug by the Catalan Hydroelectric Company.

15.03 Fall into a trench dug by the Barcelona Water Company.

15.04 Fall into a trench dug by the Calle Corcega Neighbourhood Association.

15.06 Decide to abandon the ideal heliographic plan and to walk watching where I put my feet.

The situational comedy never abates with the jokes not always at the expense of the aliens.

…. if she looks a little the worse for wear, it’s not because of her age, but for other reasons, such as a) her passion for dried beans, b) the beatings her men have given her, and c) the botched cosmetic surgery ….  At this she bursts into tears.  So I go and tell her not to cry, that to me she is the most beautiful and attractive woman I have ever seen, and that I would gladly marry her, but am unable to due to the fact that I am an extraterrestrial and am just passing through on the way to another galaxy, to which she replies that they all say that.

It matters not whether Gurb is found or whether the aliens stay or return.  The joke is on anyone, everyone and everything.  “Literary prozac” proclaims the blurb and it’s true in two senses.  1) It certainly cheered me up and 2) it’s addictive.  I needed more.  Thus I went straight from Gurb to the Enchanted Crypt.

The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt is an earlier novel from 1978, but published in English by Telegram Books only last year.   Although the narrator is human, he is in many respects as alien as the narrator in No Word From Gurb.  GonewiththeWind is a foul-smelling lunatic, pressganged by the police into investigating  on their behalf. The carrot before GonewiththeWind is freedom.  The police motives are beyond me but I have already learned to forget logic with Mendoza. Just go with the absurdity.  What starts as a seemingly innocuous investigation into the disappearance of a convent girl from her school dormitory soon turns into a romp through the seedy underworld of Barcelona in which GonewiththeWind is pursued by the corpse of a Swedish sailor;  his only ally his ageing prostitute sister.  Not as immediately comic as Gurb, the satire sometimes pushes the boundaries of good taste.  Nonetheless this is a clever parody of crime fiction and it seems the start of a series starting GonewiththeWind.  Telegram are publishing  The Olive Labyrinth later this year and I’m first in the queue.

No Word From Gurb  

The Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt  1/2