Time Traveling Nazi Ghosts and Other Curiosities

Okay, if you're like me, and you heard "time traveling Nazis" and immediately thought of Jeremy Robinson's SecondWorld, I salute you.  I'll also urge you to just go read SecondWorld again, because it's fun and actually kind of creepy and Robinson does a good job with the concept.  Manuel Loueiro's time traveling Nazi cruise liner and assorted ghosts doesn't fare nearly as well.  The style and quality of The Last Passenger actually mimics the fatal voyage of the Titanic quite closely.  While it starts out quite strongly, with interesting characters and a peculiar mystery, it hits an iceberg and sinks into the cold oblivion of brain-cell-killing rubbish.

The story follows a woman named Kate Kilroy--actually, it's Catalina Soto, because she's Spanish, but that really plays zero role in this story, so, never mind that, then--who is mourning her husband's death.  They both worked as reporters for a big London news agency.  To try and give Kate some closure, their mutual boss gives her her husband's last assignment: an online gambling magnate has inexplicably purchased a massive cruise liner involved in some very, shall we say, interesting circumstances right before the official outbreak of World War II.  A Nazi cruise ship--the first and last.

In the beginning, I thought the story moved along at a nice clip: the prologue was creepy and intriguing, and initially, Kate was an interesting character.  She was tenacious yet completely shattered by the loss of her husband.  Unfortunately, once we really get into the actual meat of the story, things fall apart quickly, a bit like a poorly-made raft being ripped apart in rough seas.

The man who's behind the mysterious sale and retrofitting of the Valkyrie (aka Nazi Cruise Ship of Death, tagline: Welcome to the Third Reich of the rest of your afterlife!) is named Isaac Feldman, and he is not really a mobster, as Kate has been led to believe.  Dang.  I was kind of excited about the intrepid heroine partnering with a British mobster.  Anyway.  When a group of sailors found the Valkyrie adrift so many decades ago, they found one person alive: a baby, wrapped in a tallit and with a Star of David around his neck.  Why was there a Jewish baby on the Valkyrie?

Yes, you're right: Isaac and the baby are one and the same.  In a desperate attempt to understand his origin, Isaac plans to sail the Valkyrie once again.  Kate signs on to cover the voyage, and notices that there's a large crew of scientists aboard as well, as well as Feldman's head of security and a "Slavic" bombshell named Senka who acts as the spy/muscle.  Feldman reveals that they are not just making an ocean crossing, but rather, heading for the exact point where the Valkyrie's maiden voyage ended, at some sort of cosmic confluence point named after a burly Russian scientist who appears in two chapters and then disappears.  Everybody, naturally, goes, "What?  No!  I didn't sign up for time travel!" but Feldman appeases them by giving them a satellite link to a totally superfluous babe-scientist back home who will send them all the information they require.

At this time, I was having major second thoughts.

But wait!  We haven't even gotten into how Kate brought along her dead husband's ashes in an urn (as you do!!!) and then he shows up as a ghost but a ... corporeal ghost who can have the sexytimes.  Another ghost on the ship has pretty ... um, you know, sexytimes with Senka as well.  Later this ghost is revealed to be a malicious Jewish demon, summoned by the grandfather in the Jewish family who literally picked the worst ship ever to stowaway on.

As we neared the end, I just prayed for it to be over.  The characters turned into little figurines moved about the ship as needed, and Kate devolved quickly into a whimpering fool.  It would have been far more satisfying had everyone just died and ended the book.

Apart from the utter insanity of the "plot," we have some really interesting quotes as well.  Part of it, I think, has to do with the fact that this was translated.  As a few of the scientists attempt to woo Kate, she suggests Senka as an alternative.  One man says, " 'We do not play on the same team, unfortunately.' 'What do you mean?' Kate asked, confused.  'I believe Mr. Paxton is referring to the fact that Senka is a lesbian, Kate.' "  I actually had to reread that passage a few times to figure out what meant Senka was a lesbian.  This may be my personal vernacular, or specific to my geographic origin, but I generally hear "batting for the other team" used.  Rarely, "playing for the other team."  Not "playing on the same team."  To me, that implies that her loyalties are elsewhere, not her affections.  It's a really minor detail, but it threw off my comprehension of the conversation.  Additionally, the author seems to think that Senka's experience being gang-raped as a child turned her into a lesbian.  Right.

Did you know this about "Americans" as a whole?  "Robert had enjoyed the trip so much that he was instantly converted into a lover of cruises and displayed the same brand of childish wonder Americans tend to express when they take an interest in something."  Oookay.  What does that mean, exactly?  If you are not American, you can't be obsessed with something.  Do people in Germany not build model trains, or collect coins, or do anything like that?  Must be just those ca-ray-zee Americans.

Even if you are lured in by the thought of time travel and Nazis and ships, please, please, please don't read this.  On the other hand, the sense of relief when the book is finally over is really something.


Popular Posts