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The Princess Is In Another Castle: A Review of Stays Crunchy In Milk

Stays_Crunchy_in_Milk_Adam_P_Knave Some days it’s difficult to remember where you left your keys (for example, I have no idea where mine are right now).  Life is like that as you grow older and your brain becomes increasingly pitted – gaps in your memory open up and details tumble into the void.  So imagine what it’s like to wake up one morning and realize that you’ve forgotten someone so close to you that you cannot conceive of yourself without that person by your side.

Okay, now imagine that you’re a furry pink werewolf named Wereberry who lives on a diet of dried strawberries, and your forgotten friend is a female ghost.  Imagine further that you decide one morning to leave your cozy fruit-scented home for climes unknown to find her, accompanied by chocolate mummy king Choco-Ra and the amphibious monster The Creature from the Fruit Lagoon (T.C. to his friends).  You’ve just imagined yourself into Adam P. Knave’s bizarre Stays Crunchy in Milk, a picaresque novel for the children of the ‘70s and ‘80s, with characters taken straight from your childhood cereal cupboard and shaken directly into the plastic bowl of your heart.

Minor spoilers and delicious fruit flavour after the jump.

Every generation gets the novel it deserves, and Stays Crunchy In Milk may well be ours.  Knave has taken iconic figures from our childhood and re-imagined them as characters attempting to navigate a series of curiously flattened worlds taken from toys, cartoons and video games.  The endearing figures of ‘Were, Ra and T.C. travel from place to place in their quest for their missing friend Cherrygeist, making friends with pretty much whomever they encounter (the NPCs of Stays Crunchy are usually benign), bickering with each other and discovering the value of friendship along the way.

If you’ve never heard of Choco-Ra or Wereberry, don’t beat your head against the wall in a fit of nerd failure.  Knave has taken some pains to avoid a lawsuit by mutating familiar figures – the horrendously irritating Fuzzticuffs are Care Bears stand-ins, for example – with results that usually pay off in an enjoyable guessing game.  Sometimes the characterizations are frighteningly spot-on, especially in the case of Rainbow Brite’s recasting as the Grand Vizier and chief interrogator of a cartoon dystopia ruled over by a beloved but inattentive princess.  And it’s not hard to figure what G.I. BOB and the forces of HAVOC are supposed to represent.

Not every attempt to explicate a crabbed universe is successful.  I found the Voltron chapters to be less engaging than the rest, and there are times when the loading of details does not seem to add much to the narrative pleasure.  The physical traits and quirks of behaviour in each fictive universe only come to life when the main characters are reacting to the arbitrary nature of these worlds, such as the dawning realization that the war between G.I. BOB and HAVOC is an endless ever-escalating arms race that never produces a single casualty.

Knave hits his stride in the video game sections, where the characters navigate a claustrophobic and bewildering mash-up of Mario Bros and Kings Quest, with enemies leaping out from nothingness and an ever-advancing wall of blackness swallowing the world behind them.  It's like a Scott Pilgrim comic taken to its existential extreme.  But the most fascinating parts of the book take place in the interludes, the milk-white spaces between worlds that eventually reveal themselves as places of infinite quantum play, where thought and observation shape and create the world.  Knave allows his characters to relax a bit and reflect on their adventures, and it is here that you truly enjoy the interplay between these unlikely figures.

It is here, as well, that Ra, ‘Were and T.C. learn the harsh truth of their quest and discover what makes life really worth living (hint: it has to do with valuing the friends you have over the perpetually absent one you're chasing).  It may seem strange to have breakfast cereals teach you some basic truths about life, but for a generation that grew up on Saturday morning cartoons and cereals with little dried-up marshmallows, it’s only fitting.

For more Adam P. Knave, visit Stop Motion Verbosity.







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Comments

Maria

This is sitting on my breakfast bar and I can't wait to dive in.

Maria

This is sitting on my breakfast bar and I can't wait to dive in.

TwoBusy

So many things are suddenly becoming clear to me right now.

The book sounds cool, btw.




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