I had my reservations about Vid Saunders’ (The Hwacha of Darkness) latest novel, Mr. Mop Man. The first of a trilogy based on a series of comic books about an anthropomorphic mop who can summon soap and mops to fight evil? Set in the Yugoslovakian town of Popinsky? Even though the author is my son, if this had started with a map on the first page, I wouldn’t have picked it up.
This was a pleasant surprise. From the first sentence, “A word of advice: if you ever need a firefighter, don’t hire a mop,” I was hooked. Mr. Mop Man has lost his evil-fighting team of Black Orran and Rainbow Kymos, (whom we learn about in flashbacks) and was unable to save a train of innocent citizens from certain death due to his lack of strength. When evil comes knocking on the door of his apartment (to which he and his new team retreat frequently; I like to think of it as The Broom Closet), he has to fight it. Helping him are the Weather Man, a cloud of sparkly dust filled with invaluable skills and a snide remarks; Green Magic Guy, with his elemental magic and superior attitude; Transformer Guy, a robot of Ytzgapistani origin who has been programmed to be loyal to Mr. Mop Man due to the fact he read the comics during his imprinting stage; and Warp Guy, who moves slowly and didn’t have many redeeming characteristics.
Soon the team is looking for evil to fight, but evil is searching them out! Adventure after adventure follows, and they battle the evil Ytzgapistani Ultranski, the Dust Bunny, the sparkly vampire Veventry (who knows secrets about Mr. Mop Man’s past) and the very evil Hilotiki, a Polynesian spirit who performs his evil by inhabiting statues and wants to wipe out the world by first taking out Mr. Mop Man, thereby rendering Yugoslovakia (the source from which all good in the world comes) vulnerable.
The battles are frequent and filled with heart-pounding adventure. Each chapter ends on a note that made me want to continue reading. The thing that I liked best was the fact that Mr. Mop Man didn’t take himself seriously, and there were laugh-out-loud funny lines everywhere. My favorite chapter was "Break In At the Robot Store". Mutant electric eels have taken over, and in order to short circuit a talking door, Mr. Mop Man’s sea monkeys perform a charade that give the team a clue as to what to do. The cranioctopus, who scares its victims to death by making them imagine their worst fears was also fun, as was Mr. Mop Man’s signature move to fight the most fearsome opponents, the Big Ben Mop.
While most of the prose flowed smoothly and was well-paced, there were a fair number of inelegant phrases, and there could have been more cohesion in the plot. The flashbacks, while interesting, interrupted the flow of the story.
There were also lots of typos, which is why I am the only one who gets to read this—Vid wrote this on a 1958 Smith-Corona typewriter. And people ask me what my children do with their time, since they usually only get a half hour total of screen time per day. Write novels, apparently!