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German author Moers has constructed a surreal adventure story inspired by 21 woodcuts by 19th-century French illustrator Gustave Doré, which are interspersed throughout the novel. Readers follow the exploits of a boy named Gustave, the captain of a ship that's destroyed by a storm. After he's blown to high heaven, Gustave meets Death, but instead of going quietly into the arms of the Grim Reaper, Gustave opts to be sent on a quest to complete six impossible tasks. Soon the young adventurer is in the company of naked damsels who hunt dragons, a group of malevolent giants, a crocodile who seduces his prey before he eats them and a huge winged talking pig. Moers infuses his tale with humor and life lessons (the benefits of leading a full life, the necessity of focus and the importance of staying in touch with your imagination). Still, the narrative relies too much on the conceit of plot points being connected through the art, and the material seems like the stuff of children's adventure novels. The illustrations are beautiful, and worth the time to stop and consider. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.