6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

Title: Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain

Author: A. Lee Martinez

Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy

Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: March 2012
Hardcover: 320 pages

Emperor Mollusk.

Intergalactic Menace. Destroyer of Worlds. Conqueror of Other Worlds. Mad Genius. Ex-Warlord of Earth.

Not bad for a guy without a spine.

But what’s a villain to do after he’s done . . . everything. With no new ambitions, he’s happy to pitch in and solve the energy crisis or repel aliens invaders should the need arise, but if he had his way, he’d prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of dangerous science. Just as a hobby, of course.

Retirement isn’t easy though. If the boredom doesn’t get him, there’s always the Venusians. Or the Saturnites. Or the Mercurials. Or . . . well, you get the idea. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the assassins of a legendary death cult and an up-and-coming megalomaniac (as brilliant as he is bodiless) who have marked Emperor for their own nefarious purposes. But Mollusk isn’t about to let the Earth slip out of his own tentacles and into the less capable clutches of another. So it’s time to dust off the old death ray and come out of retirement. Except this time, he’s not out to rule the world. He’s out to save it from the peril of THE SINISTER BRAIN!

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher

Why did I read this book: A. Lee Martinez’s work is, for lack of a better word, wacky. Delightfully wacky. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chasing the Moon, so I was thrilled when our lovely friends at Orbit gave a copy of Emperor Mollusk.


When you’re a cephalopod warlord with a virtually perfect track record in terms of interstellar domination, life can get a little dull. Emperor Mollusk – invertebrate, neptunian, unparalleled genius – has done his fair share of planetary invade-and-conquers over the years. He’s done so many that everything has become a little…well, easy. Plus, becoming a conquering warlord comes with a ton of responsibility, especially for a planet like Terra (read: Earth). From energy crises to religious and political aggression, name most any earthling problem and Mollusk has solved it. He’s also protected the planet from other would-be alien invaders and overlords, thwarting everyone from the rigid, duty-bound Venusians to his latest adversary (his own clone). No, Mollusk has retired from the domination game and is content to hold on to his current position as Emperor in relative peace, dull as peace might be.

So, when a Venusian warrior with a grudge named Zala approaches Mollusk to protect him from assassins – not out of warm feeling for the squidlike warlord, you understand, but out of honor (because only a Venusian should have the honor of killing the dread Mollusk in retaliation for his murder of their queen) – Mollusk happily complies. With the help of the straight-laced Zala and adorably loyal pet Snarg (watchdog and slobbering ultrapede) and is thrilled to embark on a merry investigation that leads him to bargain basement Atlantian assassins and a truly megalomaniacal Sinister Brain. What’s a retired warlord to do when his turf is being invaded by a disembodied villain? Why, protect it, of course.

As with Chasing the Moon, Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain is absurdly good fun. There isn’t much in the way of plotting or depth, but the overall point of the book isn’t meant for linear plots or soul-searching questions. Rather, the story is meant to be absurd. It’s meant to be comedic. Most importantly, it’s meant to harken back to the days of pulpy, noirish, B-movie style science fiction – and in this capacity, Mollusk vs. Brain totally succeeds. I love the old school concept of a solar system inhabited by different warlike aliens on each planet; it’s all like one of those delightfully cheesy Twilight Zone episodes. Remember “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” with the delightful cafe worker from Venus with his third eye and the Martian with his three arms? Mollusk is kind of like that. Well, plus any other number of 1950s science fiction prominently featuring brains – atomic brains, brains that won’t die, fiends without faces, and so on and so forth.

While I love the hat tip to B cinema and pulp, the best part of the story for me was the character of Emperor Mollusk himself. For all that he’s a dominating and conquering intergalactic warlord, he’s also surprisingly responsible for the people he has conquered (namely, us poor earthlings) – though he’d never admit that, of course. These little contradictions in Mollusk’s character are wonderfully compelling. I also thoroughly enjoyed the reptilian Zala and her lack of imagination but dogged determination and uncompromising respect for the chain of duty and command (fodder for so many fun interactions with the more freespirited Mollusk). Praises said, though, there isn’t actually much story to the story. It’s fun and diverting, mildly comedic, and certainly distracting – but the literary equivalent of empty calories. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with empty calories; it’s just that while Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain is undeniably fun, there isn’t too much to get truly excited about with this book.

There isn’t really much else to say – if you fancy a story about a small squid with huge ambitions, mutant dinosaurs, time-traveling and dimensional spanning plots, you’ll enjoy Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain. If you’re craving meat and potatoes, though, look elsewhere.

Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read an excerpt online HERE using Hachette’s OpenBook.

Additional Thoughts: Make sure to stick around and check out a guest post from A. Lee Martinez about his thought process and inspiration behind Emperor Mollusk vs. The Sinister Brain.

Rating: 6 – Good, Comic Pulpy Fun

Reading Next: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, nook, google, kobo, sony & apple


  • AnimeJune
    March 8, 2012 at 6:47 am

    I’ve found that former villains getting their own story is becoming something of a slow-burning trend these days. What with “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” and “Despicable Me” and “Megamind.” I quite enjoy this – I always wonder what interesting lives supervillains or alien overlords would have since in the non-ironic shows and movies they’re in, they’re just two dimensional and evil

  • Jackie Kessler
    March 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Every villain is the hero of his or her story. Except Iago, whom Shakespeare clearly labeled, “A villain.” Maybe it’s time for a UF take on some of the Shakespeare villains. 🙂


  • amy
    March 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Over the course of the week I read a copy of this book, let me tell you it is worth the time and it entertains the entire time. I can’t stress to you the rarity a good book is now-a-days, specifically in the sci-fi type reads. Please be sure to pick up a copy one way or another as it will not disappoint. I look forward to more from this author.

  • Shannon
    March 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Hmm, sounds interesting. I love the villain as hero idea for stories. Thins sounds like it would be a nice break between some more serious fare.

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