The Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper is the funniest book I’ve read since Kimberly Frost’s Barely Bewitched. I laughed so hard that at one point, I thought I was getting chest pains. It was a muscle cramp, but for a moment there I wondered if this novel would put me in the hospital — or even on my eventual date with destiny.
Ted and Laura are bound by a shared supernatural experience that they still have not gotten over, ten years later. When they were freshmen in college, a nest of vampires tried to lure Laura into a fateful bite. Instead, young Teddy becomes an ax-wielding vampire slayer and rescues her. Neither can ever share the incident with anyone else and be believed; thus, they remain in each other’s lives.
Except since Laura is a lesbian, they can’t get too closely into each other’s lives.
Now, ten years later, Laura is a junior FBI agent and Ted is a barista at a Starbucks — er, at Queequeg’s, a coffee shop. Readers of Melville will recognize the reference. Ted has perfected the Latte, using a slightly altered version from Queequeg’s prescribed ratios.
Unfortunately, when a man comes in and orders a half-soy, half-caf, Ted knows there’s something wrong with him. Who ever orders half-soy? He is a total jerk, so Ted doesn’t bother to tell him when he accidentally leaves a CD behind. Instead, he pockets it and uses his break time to deliver Laura a cup of coffee.
When Ted comes back, he discovers that the disturbed coffee drinker is back, and he’s shot up the entire store. He demands the CD from Ted at at gunpoint. Ted unleashes his hidden evil-fighting talent, and eventually discovers a plot to call forth the sleeping elder god/horrific monster, Great Cthulhu.
As with most really humorous novels, it is difficult to summarize the plot. You simply have to be there. So I’ll just go over some highlights.
This novel spoofs HP Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu. I’ve never read it, but I’m familiar with the story. The Mall of Cthulhu makes fun of Lovecraft’s racism — most of his villains are apparently dark-skinned — by making all the villains Angry White Men. And it makes fun of Lovecraft’s famously bad dialog — even Stephen King made fun of it in his On Writing — by having his villains go into long-winded tirades that end in the villain promising that Ted will beg for . . . well, I’ll let you read it.
The chest-pain-inducing scene came when Ted has traveled to Providence and sets up Ted to “surveil” the mall under the cover of a pushcart salesman. She doesn’t want him to get distracted by actually selling stuff, so she orders stuff that supposedly no one would ever want. Guess what happens?
Even the eventual meeting with Great Cthulhu is hysterical while remaining true to Lovecraft’s description of the monster/elder god. Cthulhu is asleep, you see, in a non-Euclidean dimension, in the dread city of R’lyeh (which I could not help but to pronounce as “Raleigh” even though I knew it was probably wrong). And Ted is bored. And when Ted gets bored, you never know what he’s going to do.
If you are at all familiar with Lovecraft, this is going to be a blast. If not, then don’t worry, because everything is hilariously explained. I loved it. It was a huge amount of fun.