Publisher: Orbit Books, February 21, 2011 (though Amazon says the paperback is available now)
Genre: Absurdist Fiction, Humor
Where I Got It: NetGalley
My Rating: 4 stars (Add to your TBR list … but only if this kind of book is your cup of tea)
Before I read this book, I’d never heard of Tom Holt. I read this book for one reason: this blurb by my beloved Christopher Moore, which appeared in the NetGalley write-up:
“Tom Holt may be the most imaginative satirist to land on our shores since Douglas Adams.” — Christopher Moore
Funny that Moore (who Tom Holt kind of reminds me of) mentions Douglas Adams (who Tom Holt kind of reminds me of) because this book is in the same genre as Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with the difference being that Holt’s band of motley heroes don’t venture off into the galaxy (although they do visit other space-time dimensions). In other words, this is aggressively silly but smart stuff, and you either like this kind of stuff or you don’t. I do (like this kind of stuff).
Why don’t I try to tell you what the book is about so you can see for yourself? Take a deep breath. Here goes.
My Attempt To Describe The Book’s Plot
The book starts with a sow working out some physics questions in order to determine where her piglets keep disappearing when they go inside a rather large trailer near the pig pen. When she finally makes her way inside, she seemingly vanishes into another dimension. (But more on that later. That is just the warm-up.)
The real start of the book is when we meet Polly, a lawyer at a construction firm who has had some rather odd things happening to her lately: disappearing coffee, work being done without her doing it, strange notes in her files. Plus she can’t seem to find the dry cleaners where she left her dress; it has seemingly vanished into thin air. When she talks to her brother Don about whether she might be going crazy, her fears are allayed by his explanations. That is, until Don picks up clothing at the missing dry cleaners and finds a mysterious pencil sharpener that apparently lets him perform magic—magic that includes accidentally disappearing his annoying upstairs neighbor as well as the ability to create minions out of his hair.
From there, things get a little weird. As Polly and Don try to figure out what is happening, we bounce around meeting other characters, including: the couple who work at the dry cleaners that moves to a new location every night (and don’t think about going in the downstairs bathroom around 10:30 in the morning); Mr. Huos (Polly’s boss) who has a rather unusual back story as well as the headache of having the properties he’s developed disappearing overnight; and Mr. Stan Gogerty, the only man who has a chance of unraveling all the things that are plaguing these poor people (but only if he can escape from a tube station that hasn’t been built until 10 years in the future). Oh, and did I mention that the key to figuring out what is going on comes down to determining which came first … the chicken or the egg?
If reading the book description gave you headache or made you roll your eyes, this book isn’t for you. If, however, you found yourself saying “Yes! Yes! Yes! This sounds like the goofy, abusurdist kind of book I like but just can’t find enough of!“, this book is for you!
I loved this book—although it occasionally caused me a headache trying to keep up with who was doing what and where and when. It is best not to think too much, sit back and let it all come clear in the end. When you read a book like this, it is like getting on a roller coaster: you sit down, strap yourself in, and prepare to have a wild ride that doesn’t always make sense, has lots of twists and turns and craziness but is good, clean, mind-bending fun.
My only real complaint was that I often got confused about who was narrating. “Is this the chicken talking,” I’d think, “or is this the knight stuck in the time warp?” (Yeah … it is that kind of book.) It would have been helpful to have some clearer transitions (for example, a small heading saying “Don” if we are with Don). However, I did read the book in PDF format that I downloaded from NetGalley so it is entirely possible that the non-galley of the version of the book has this information. However, even with that minor quibble, I still very much enjoyed this book. In fact, I actually snorted with laughter a few times. Here are some of the passages that really made me giggle (although it is the kind of book where passage after passage is amusing).
Describing a rather special library: They called it a library, which was a bit like calling croquet on the vicarage lawn a fight to the death.
“Um,” he said, and then his voice stopped working, a failure so abrupt and total it was hard to believe Microsoft didn’t have anything to do with it.
The voice was very loud and when it spoke the ground shook under his feet, but he’d stood up to bigger bullies before. He’d used Windows Vista. He’d installed broadband. Incomprehensible and immensely powerful forces entirely beyond his control were all in a day’s work as far as he was concerned.
I really enjoyed this book and was thrilled to find out that Tom Holt has quite a few other books for me to explore. How did I not hear of this author until now???? Well, at least I’m in the know now. If you’re a Tom Holt fan, what would you recommend I read next?