Is this resurrection something to celebrate, like the boys showing up at their own funeral? You may be tempted to sigh, 'I been there before,' but you ain’t been here before, not like this anyways ... Coover sustains that magical act of literary ventriloquism for 300 pages, preserving Twain’s raggedly, tall-tale patter spiced with the same accidental aphorisms. But Coover’s feat of transformation is ultimately more interesting than his imitation ... despite a rich vein of slapstick humor, Huck Out West is a more melancholy novel than Twain’s original. 'All stories is sad stories,' Huck says, and we come to see that his “desperate low-spiritedness” stems from the trauma of witnessing so much of the human slaughter that federal expansion demanded ... f the story meanders as much as the Mississippi River, it also gathers considerable force as Huck struggles to stay out of trouble, avoid Gen. Hard Ass and resist Tom’s increasingly malevolent friendship.
...a West well beyond the dark original author’s darkest imaginings, a West that Hieronymus Bosch might have painted: an Eden falling fast to onrushing gold-maddened men who are glutting it with spilled whiskey and the blood of hideously murdered fellow men, and covered with the alkaline of treachery and moral anarchy ... [a] pulsating anti-epic ... Under Coover’s hell-hot pen, then, Tom Sawyer consummates the impish boyhood that Twain gave him; he has grown up to be, God help us, the nihilistic Sivilizer, the America-in-chrysalis. Yet Coover’s sardonic revulsion toward the often profligate, prodigal nation his literature has lampooned for 50 years has not yet grown absolute. Amid the chaos and savagery, his Huckleberry Finn still stands as Twain created him: an innocent, abroad in the new world, uncorrupted, truth-telling, the last angel of our better nature.
It’s fun to imagine the picturesque insults [Twain would] hurl against Mr. Coover and his publishing house. Everyone else, though, is free to enjoy this sly bit of fan fiction ... Huck Out West doesn’t deconstruct The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn so much as reprise it. Jim, Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer all make amusing cameos, the latter as a cheerfully amoral killer who sees the Indian Wars as a prime venue for more storybook adventures ... Dark events form the backdrop of this novel, but as in Twain’s original, the winsome humor of Huck’s 'muddytatings' lend the story a deceptive innocence ... Twain might have admired the sentiment, though that wouldn’t have stopped the lawsuits.