Kris Saknussemm's fractured Lodemania Testament
|Cover images from KrisSaknussemm.com|
by Kris Saknussemm:
(Random House/Del Rey Ballantine Books)
Eat Jellied Eels and Think Distant Thoughts
There is something irritating about authors who begin series and then take years to finish them, or sometimes never finish them. But what if they don't acknowledge that the books are part of a series to begin with?
Kris Saknussemm is a funny guy. His first novel, Zanesville (2005), is a gonzo future fantasy or science fictional whatsit that a dedicated website, now apparently removed (though it was still up and running a couple of years ago, many years after the book was published), indicated it was part of something called The Lodemania Testament. In 2011, an apparent second part of that series was finally published, Enigmatic Pilot, with no explicit mention of the previous novel or The Lodemania Testament series, although there are many links -- part of the book takes place in Zanesville; Lloyd Meadhorn Sitturd, the main character, was mentioned in Zanesville, and that character has a dead twin sister who was named Lodema -- to connect the two books. In interviews, Saknussemm has placed Enigmatic Pilot close to the beginning of the story arc, with Zanesville near the end. (A third book, Eat Jellied Eels and Think Distant Thoughts, is apparently also part of the series, but I haven't read it).
Some readers and reviewers have taken exception to there being no mention of the connection
between the two books, but I think they are a little out of line. While there is some pleasure and joy to be derived from the knowledge, the books are separate entities. In Zanesville, Lloyd is mentioned on only four pages, in a prologue section titled "My Life is Wind," set in 1838-1913. The rest of the book's almost 500 pages never refers to Lloyd again, and it takes place more than a century later.
Likewise, Enigmatic Pilot has no mention of Elijah Clearfather, the main character of Zanesville. It's not necessary to read one book to understand the other. At this point, it might just be confusing. Each book is confusing enough on its own without dragging the other book into the mix. Saknussemm is actually doing the reader a favor by putting in the links without stated connections, except in interviews.
A bigger problem is that Enigmatic Pilot is hardly a complete work in and of itself. First, it begins with a prologue set after the Civil War, sets up a mystery, then jumps back several decades and never returns to that prologue. Someone who might be Lloyd appears in that prologue, though it's not made explicit.
Second, the main story is set up by a mysterious letter and offer to Lloyd's father by his brother, requesting he relocate to Texas from Zanesville, OH. The family's journey to Texas looks like it's going to be the plot of the story, or perhaps the offer itself when they get there. Instead, we only make it part of the way through the journey to Texas before the book ends.
A lot happens, more than enough to set up future volumes of The Lodemania Testament, but it doesn't even scratch the surface of the backstory established in those four pages of Zanesville. At this rate, The Lodemania Testament, if completed, will take a dozen volumes or more, and Saknussemm doesn't seem to be that fast a writer (though he might be if he didn't spend more time posting on Facebook -- sometimes fascinating posts, granted -- than a teenage girl).
He's written three other books, not apparently part of The Lodemania Testament (though I could be wrong about the out-of-print Reverend America.) Lloyd's story alone looks like a trilogy at minimum, probably longer, before we get from the late 19th century to the 21st century or beyond of Zanesville.
I look forward to future installments, but I understand why Saknussemm might not want to draw too much attention to the fact it's a series.