‘Kat On A Hot Tin Airship’ is the second of Sam Stone’s steampunk pastiche adventures featuring demon hunter Kat Lightfoot. While the first title in the series, ‘Zombies At Tiffany’s’ saw Kat fighting the undead in New York, Stone moves her to a post-Civil War Deep South where a plantation family hides a dark, demonic secret. It’s just as well that Kat’s ready with her Crewe-Remington laser and breeches to solve the mystery.
Hanging on the tattered coat tails of pastiche fiction like ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies’, ‘Zombies At Tiffany’s’, saw Stone parodying names and situations from Truman Capote’s loved ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, Kat Lightfoot being an amalgamation of Holly Golightly and her pet cat, Cat. Actors George Peppard and Martin Balsam’s names were plundered for Kat’s demon-hunting friends Pepper and Martin. The gang, including Kat’s mother and sister, return for the sequel which travels to the Pollitt plantation where Big Daddy and Big Momma preside over a vast estate and a family filled with society intrigue and secrets. Tennessee Williams is providing the source for parody this time around and ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ is an effective text to use. The play is all about mendacity and Stone’s novella reflects this, there is a demon within the family and it has provoked many secrets and lies.
If ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ is the source for pastiche, then the source of homage is undoubtedly ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. Kat is of course, Buffy, Martin and Pepper are equal parts Giles and Angel (complete with tiresome will-they-won’t-they relationships) while Kat’s mother and sister are Joyce and Dawn. Not that this matters much, Kat is a likeable heroine, charismatic and bold. Meanwhile, the characters around her sometimes feel more like caricatures, for example the bitchy society southern belle (Bette Davis in ‘Jezebel’, Vivian Leigh in ‘Gone With The Wind’ and countless US mini-series) while Isaac, the faithful, black family retainer has psychic gifts (‘The Shining’).
Sometimes, the mystery feels a little more ‘Murder, She Wrote’ than ‘American Horror Story’, but there are plenty of creepy moments in the book, my favourite being an encounter with a demon child hidden behind a wall. Conversely, there isn’t a lot of action. If you were expecting from the cover, as I was, swashbuckling steampunk adventuring, you’ll be a little disappointed. The titular airship doesn’t feature that much which is a shame. However, the sense of stifling untruths and half-heard voodoo ceremonies in the woods surrounding the plantation create a great atmosphere, even when you’re chuckling from the Williams’ references.
‘Kat On A Hot Tin Airship’ is an enjoyable read and it will certainly be interesting to see which American literary giant Stone decides to borrow from next (‘The Great Katsby’ anyone?). My hope would be that the tension and action could be ratcheted up a notch, Kat has some fantastic steampunk toys, it would be great to see more of them.
(pub: Telos. 229 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-086-1)
check out website: www.telos.co.uk