The Chowderhead Crusades

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Much like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, J.J. Walsh’s The Chowderhead Crusades has a love and respect for comic books. Both books deal with the construct of characters who are suffering through a dystopia of sorts, especially for those low on the societal rungs, but they are given a chance to compete with others to achieve riches and notoriety they could never have dreamed of. While Ready Player One hasn’t aged so well, as its simplicity, ham-handed references and in-jokes, and predictable plot have made it a less than enjoyable book, The Chowderhead Crusades deals with the same subject matter in a fresher, more entertaining, and more interesting way that draws the reader in.

Clayton Clayborn is a guy who’s never had it easy. He is an orphan who was basically sold into a form of slavery for Norman Corp because it’s the mid-twenty-first century and when you’re down and out and have little worth, there’s not much hope for you. Of course, Norman Corp says they’re doing a good deed by helping these orphans in need and giving them a chance at a better life. Clayton became an “employee” for Norman Corp at the tender age of nine and has spent most of his life on a deep-space freighter known as The Charon that makes a continuous run from Earth to Mars to mine for the ore Normanium. It’s a rough and thankless job, but it’s all Clayton has ever really known. He’s also a Chowderhead: a massive comic book fan. As things became worse in the world, the superhero comics were something to turn to and hope for. They became known as “The Scriptures,” while the die-hard fans became known as “Supe Heads,” a shortened version of “Superhero Heads.” It wasn’t long before the term “Chowderheads” became part of the lexicon. Life is pretty rough for Clayton, but he does have Cassie, whom he gets to see and eat with sometimes, who he definitely has a crush on, and who is also a fellow Chowderhead. Talking with her about the good times of the superheroes is basically his favorite past time.

Clayton also has a goal: to win Cateklysm’s Challenge. On January 20, 2036, an unknown being took over the airwaves and made a proclamation. He called himself Cateklysm Catholicon and had just shown himself at Comic-Con, so naturally, there were those who were distrustful of what he was saying. Nevertheless, he offered humanity salvation and hope for something better with Cateklysm ’s Challenge, a three-stage superhero contest. The winner will receive a piece of “unimaginably advanced technology.” So this is what Clayton wants most, but years have passed and the deadline is quickly approaching, with no one professing to have solved the Conundrum.

What’s great about The Chowderhead Crusades is the voice of Clayton. Told in the first person, the book has a great humor about it that makes it easy and quick for the reader to get drawn into the book. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but also features an unraveling and unpredictable plot that keeps the reader turning the page, looking to see what will happen next. I thought I liked Ready Player One but soon realized I was wrong; The Chowderhead Crusades I certainly do like, and it is a far superior novel.


Reviewed By:

Author J.J. Walsh (John Walsh)
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 282 pages
Publisher Severed Press
Publish Date 16-Dec-2020
ISBN 9781922551450
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2021
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy
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