Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Worms of Kukumlima by Daniel Pinkwater

OK, you know I'm a big Pinkwater fan, and you might have noticed that I'm re-reading the books in his 2000 omnibus 4 Fantastic Novels - first Borgel and then Yobgorgel. (Those books are completely unrelated, despite the similarity of names, with Yobgorgel coming thirteen years earlier.)

The third book in that omnibus is the 1981 novel The Worms of Kukumlima, and - assuming you've read the title of this post- you know it's time for that one now. 

As usual with a Pinkwater book, it's told in the first person by a smart, observant boy - in this case, Ronald Donald Almondotter, spending the summer working for his grandfather Seumas Finneganstein at the latter's World Famous Salami Snap Company. (Which itself is a somewhat typical Pinkwater thing: a famously successful business, based on a quirky little doohickey - in this case, the metal pieces that holds the end of a salami together - and run by its goofy inventor with a tiny handful of other people.)

Finneganstein was an explorer in his youth, and his old compatriot Sir Charles Pelicanstein shows up one day, urging Finneganstein to join him on an expedition to find the fabled titular intelligent worms.

In a Pinkwater novel, a crazy idea is a good idea, so they set off for Africa to find those worms, flying with an as-goofy-as-expected air cargo outfit and picking up a couple of equally oddball drivers/guides once they hit Nairobi. Unfortunately, Kukumlima is a place you can only find if you're completely, utterly lost, so the fact that these guides are experts is actually a problem. But, eventually, they all figure out a way to travel randomly, get lost, and are herded by elephants into a gigantic crater in the middle of nowhere.

They do meet the worms, who are not quite as expected. The end of the novel involves our heroes needing to get away from the worms, which of course they also do.

Worms is a Pinkwater novel: it's goofy, and proceeds in a loose, almost aimless way, its plot wandering like the expedition whose story it tells. This isn't one of my very favorite Pinkwater books - it doesn't have as many bits of wordplay or silly concepts as some of his other books, and the worms are a bit un-Pinkwaterly evil - but it's a solid Pinkwater outing from fairly early in his career, and I'm not going to say anything negative about it. The closest I'll come is what I just said: he has other books that are even better and more fun than this. 

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