Literature: The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear
"Life is too important to be left to chance."
The first novel by Walter Moers
about the fictional continent of Zamonia, covering the live and travelings of Bluebear, a blue bear
, a character in a series of children's stories written by Moers.
The book covers the first 13½ lives
After starting his life by being rescued from falling into an enormous whirlpool by 4-inch-tall pirates, Bluebear travels the lands of Zamonia in search of fortune, and a place to call home. In his journeys he learns much from a multibrained genius professor, travels the Demererra Dessert, falls into a dimensional hiatus, matches wits with a superintelligent lump of rock performs on a dream organ in a giant head, meets the multitudinous races of Atlantis, helps deliver many a Deus ex Machina
via sentient pterodactyl, and encounters many other weird, marvellous and wonderful (but mostly weird) threats, challenges friends and enemies.
This is a sweet, nicely illustrated and inventive picaresque
story, which meanders quite a bit in the telling of the story, and focuses on the oddities of the world.
Tropes used in the book include:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Fredda is this to Bluebear, being a walking hairball with enormous strength who likes to stick pencils in his ear. Still, he considers her a friend.
- Affably Evil: Voltozan Smyke.
- All Deserts Have Cacti: Even one that is made out of sugar dust!
- Another Dimension: Qwerty's home dimension is mostly made out of carpet. Some other, even weirder ones are mentioned.
- Atlantis: Capital city of Zamonia. The book also inverted its eventual fate. It's a spaceship.
- Arc Words: Knowledge is Night in the sixth life.
- Always Chaotic Evil: A number of Zamonian species: Troglotrolls, Shark Grubs, Spiderwitches and almost all cyclops races. NEVER trust a troglotroll
- Big Bad: The Zamonium, a sapient element and captain of the Moloch.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Qwerty. He eats music from instruments made out of milk. He is also a gelatinous blob. Of course, he isn't from Zamonia. He isn't even from this dimension, so it makes sense that he's Bizarre Alien Biology Up to Eleven.
- Bizarre Instrument: In Qwerty's home dimension, there are music instruments made of milk.
- Breakout Character: Rumo the Wolperting and Optimus Yarnspinner, both mentioned in the book, are protagonist in later Zamonia novels.
- Blatant Lies: The Congladiators of Atlantis have turned them into a hugely popular sport.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Troglotroll, and how.
- Cool Starship: Atlantis
- Department of Redundancy Department: The invisible Invisibles.
- Deus Exmachina: Deus X. Machina and the other Reptilian Rescuer, who literally save people at the last second out of nowhere.
- Emo Teen: The unicorn Fogelweide (called Flowergrazer in the English translation, appears in the night school), who writes lots of poems about unicorns who're very lonely and named Fogelweide.
- Emotion Eater: Hobgoblins
- Encyclopedia Exposita: The Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Form and other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs is used to this purpose regularly.
- "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Bluebear's journey through the Bollog's head.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Nearly every single legend and mystery known to man is dealt with in the novel in various fashions, plus a lot original ones.
- For Science!: Just to be Nightingale's Modus Operandi, until he discovered absolute darkness.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Never trust a Troglotroll — don't even trust his untrustworthiness.
- Hollywood Mirage: Happens to Bluebear in the Sweet Desert several times before he actually catches one.
- Instant Expert: Professor Nightingale's way of educating people turns out to revolve largely around "bacteriological transmission of knowledge", which basically means that his knowledge is contagious. Students attending his lectures become Instant Experts on whatever he was lecturing on at the time, even discovering that they know details that he didn't even mention in the lecture itself.
- Just in Time: Roving Reptilian Rescuers make a point of saving people from danger, but only at the last possible moment. It just encourages people to be careless otherwise.
- Last of His Kind: Bluebear and his fellow Night School students; it's a prerequisite for joining. In the end, he finds his people, the Chromobears, as slaves aboard the Moloch. He helps set them free and they found a colony.
- Latin Lover: Chemluth Havana.
- Karma Houdini: After spending the entire book as a Heel-Face Revolving Door and ending his role on the Heel side of things, the Troglotroll still gets off scot-free.
- Lawful Stupid: The Muggs follow their 10 rules religiously. Sadly, their laws are written by an insane man.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to the other Zamonia novels, that are much darker.
- Losing Your Head: What every bollog does after he reaches a certain height. After that, he wanders the continent, searching for his head.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The Gourmetica Insularies.
- Lucky Translation: The arc words in the second half "Knowledge is Night" work a bit better in German ("Wissen ist Nacht" which is very similar to the proverb "Wissen ist Macht" or in English "Knowledge is power"), but since "power" and "might" are almost synonyms, this works reasonably well.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Many of the Zamonian inhabitants consist of this, such as the Wolpertings (bipedal dogs with deer antlers), Bluddums (shaggy bears from the waist up, skinny humans from the waist down) and Shark Grubs (Exactly What It Says on the Tin). Also, Atlantis' underground is infested with a combination of cockroaches, rats and vampires.
- The Musical: Yes, there is one, a stage musical which uses a surreal mix of live actors, puppets and CGI images projected onto a screen in the background. While a lot of characters and plot points from the book are dropped or changed, most of the important parts remain.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Professor Dr. Abdullah Nightingale. He even created some new scientific fields, in which he is also the leading expert.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: The bollogs can be any height, from 200 meters up to several miles high.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires in Atlantis take several forms, including ones that live off halitosis or noise. Some of them are quite cute.
- Patchwork Map: Zamonia has everything, mile-high mountains, giant deserts, jungles and big forests.
- Portal Network: A rare example of a natural network. Dimension Portals are just an other weird phenomenon in this weird world.
- Punny Name: Bluebear meets with a pterodactyl-like creature who rescues people from danger at the last moment; his name is Deus X. Machina.
- Quicksand Sucks: Intelligent Quicksand. The entire thing is also played with in a throwaway line in the first life, where the Minipirates mix quicksand in the soap when swabbing the deck, to avoid the deck becoming slippery.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Wolperting whelps are said to be the cuddliest, most adorable creatures in the world. However, adult Wolpertings are a Proud Warrior Race with hair-trigger tempers.
- Serial Escalation: Every single description and event in the novel being more fantastic and exaggerated than the last one.
- Shout-Out: There's a book in-universe called How Dank Was My Valley.
- Take Over the World: Ultimate goal of the Zamonium.
- The Smurfette Principle: Fredda and Avriel are the only two named female characters in over 700 pages.
- Troperiffic: Seriously. One of the main criticisms about the book is that it almost contains too much weird stuff.