By Earl Mac Rauch

Dark Horse


624pp/$29.99/November 2021

Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, Et Al.
Cover by Alex Janson

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The first novel in the series, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension and the film that was based on it, enchanted with the energy of a pulp novel brought into the 1980s. Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League Et Al. is much slower with the feel of a philosophical novel. Rauch sets the tone from the beginning in his pseudo-academic author's note. Unfortunately, that style carries over into the novel itself.

The titular World Crime League is led by the mastermind criminal Hanoi Xan, who only had a brief reference in the film, but has loomed large in Buckaroo Banzai's story for those who have delved into deleted scenes, the original novel by Rauch, and the comics that have been issued over the years. Set shortly after the events of the film, Buckaroo crashed the Jet Car he used to drive through the mountain in Nevada, killing Penny Priddy in the process. Furthermore, his mentor, Professor Hikita has died, leaving Buckaroo Banzai at some loose ends.

The story is a continuation and expansion of the film. Having defeated Lord John Whorfin and the red Lectroids, finds himself having to deal with the fallout from that victory. John Emdall, who appeared to be an ally of sorts in the film threatens the safety of Earth, and various old friends and enemies make appearances, as well as the addition of Banzai's version of Moriarty, Hanoi Xan.

Although Buckaroo Banzai is introduced early in the novel, he quickly disappears and Rauch cogitates on the origins and person of Hanoi Xan. This lengthy exploration of the character takes away much of the character’s mystery and reveals that while Rauch can create many evocative characters, few of them stand up to the scrutiny given them in this book. Hanoi Xan, especially, does not appear to be the evil criminal mastermind he has been made out to be. Although the criminal empire he oversees is full of depravity and demagoguery, Xan, himself, appears to sit apart from it, focusing on himself without taking many overt actions. That isn't to say Xan is innocent. A large part of the book is devoted to the fact that he has captured an amnesiac Penny Priddy and is grooming her as his sex slave, Alisa. It isn't entirely clear if his focus on Penny (and presumably his earlier focus on Peggy) has to do with his belief that she is the reincarnation of his eternal love or if his focus on her is part of his vendetta against Buckaroo Banzai. However, even his relationship with Banzai appears skewed, with Banzai more aware of it than Xan is.

When Rauch presents a scene showing Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers talking, with Buckaroo and Webmaster Jhonny sharing their dreams and Perfect Tommy, L'il Daughter, and the Reno Kid wrapping their minds about quantum physics, it feels more like eavesdropping on a late night bull session in a college dorm where the students are trying to figure out how their new experiences fit into their old worldview rather than listening to a discussion at a high powered think tank. Once Buckaroo really makes his appearance in the novel, there are scenes which recall the feeling of the film and the original novel, although they are relatively sparse and often devolve into Buckaroo listening to the ravings of either madmen or men who are possessed by the spirit of Lord John Whorfin. These tirades are lengthy and not entirely necessary, slowing down any momentum the book has built up while adding little to the readers understanding of the situation.

There are moments in the book that harken back to the film, but they are few and far between. The style and pacing on Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League Et Al. is completely different from the pacing of the film, which could be attributed to the different medium in which the novel is presented, except it also has a very different feel from the novelization of the film that Rauch also wrote. While it still contains many of the same gonzo elements that made the film a beloved cult classic, it fails to capture the same spark. Rauch's sequel is ambitious, but it fails to provide the same sense of adventure and wittiness as the earlier material.

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