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Lowriders to the Center of the Earth: 09/08/16

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper with illustrations by Raúl the Third is the sequel to Lowriders in Space. Lupe, el Chavo, and Eliro go on a road trip in search of their missing cat, Genie after an earthquake shakes things up.

In terms of the modern day road trip — post industrial revolution — an earthquake can signal the beginning of an urban fantasy adventure. While the title implies a Jules Verne inspired adventure, this one is more akin to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (the one where a California earthquakes leads Dorothy to an underground method to entering Oz).

But this is a Chicano road trip and the imagery is straight out of Mexican folklore. In that regard, the story brings to mind The Book of Life, though with a very different underworld — one that has been corrupted by a god too consumed for his love of bones.

Page showing the journey through the maize maze

The way to the underworld, though, lies at the other end of a corn maze (or maize maze as one of the characters quips). And this inclusion of corn as supernatural gate keeper brings me right back to Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. In the sub-genre of the "road not taken" corn has become a stand in for the enchanted forest of the old tales of traveling through Faerie where one must stay on the path to avoid becoming lost and forever trapped. Corn, though, is both a sentinel and prison. It is more of an active participant than any of the enchanted woods, and it's something I need to investigate further.

Another delightful detail to this adventure is the inclusion of La Llorena. Now normally she is not someone you want to stop for along the road. She certainly wasn't in the pilot episode of Supernatural. But these three heroes are so focused on their missing cat that they give her a ride with no worries beyond her incessant crying and her desire to cuddle el Chavo like he's a baby. Her inclusion is a necessary trope that is delightfully turned on its head at the conclusion of the their adventure. She despite her feline appearance, is the shaggy dog of this road trip.

Five stars

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