Wednesday, May 11, 2005

[Book Review] Odds and Gods by Tom Holt

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting used to Holt’s writing style, or if it’s because I’m a mythology fan, but Odds and Gods is the best Holt read so far. Ever wondered what happened to all the deities? Well, they became old, and are now living in a home-for-the-aged. And well, retirement isn’t all it’s hyped out to be.

This time around, Holt managed to grab my attention from the very beginning. His comedy was evident from the start, and despite the huge cast of characters, each one is compelling and enjoyable. There’s even a recurring character from Holt’s earlier books, and his role in this one is indeed fun (no prior reading necessary!).

Odds and Gods seems to be a polished-up Tom Holt. He’s shifting into high gear and there really aren’t any dull moments in the book. It’s his best book so far, and I’m really interested in reading what he’ll come up with next.

This book is sheer fun, and as long as all you’re expecting is a good laugh, Odds and Gods will do the trick. It’s funny from the first page down to the last. Not much to complain about, at least in my book, and highly recommendable to virtually anyone. It helps if they can appreciate British humor.

[Book Review] Here Comes the Sun by Tom Holt

If anything, Tom Holt has really funny premises. In this case, the world isn’t governed by physics. Rather, there are angels and demons working behind the scenes to make sure that the world runs smoothly (which includes making the sure the sun rises at dawn and it sets at sunset). Except now they’re understaffed, and working overtime isn’t enough to do the job right.

Here Comes the Sun had a slow start for me. Mainly because of the snippets of the would-be main characters, whose true identities aren’t revealed until the very end. You just know that there’s an inevitable collision course between all of them. It’s just a matter of getting there. Once you reach that point, all’s set to go.

Of course whereas Pratchett will insert something philosophical, something wise despite the abundance of satire in his stories, Holt is just plain being funny. No great epiphanies here folks, just plain old comedy and spoofs. Well, at least he’s good in that. Holt can cause a good laugh. It’s better than his earlier work, Flying Dutch, but there are also lull times during Holt’s writing. He also resorts to the occasional footnote in this book to get readers to laugh, which I think is a good sign that he’s not a Pratchett copycat (who footnotes often). Still, it’s not the best Holt read I’ve had so far, although it is pretty decent.

Here Comes the Sun is mediocre Holt. Good enough for laughs, but it’s honestly not that impressive. The premise though is great, but some of the tropes in the book have been done before. Still a good read nonetheless, and it’s something that a lot of people can really get into.

[Book Review] Faust Among Equals by Tom Holt

Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of the classics. Which unfortunately includes Faust. But hey, perhaps the mark of a good writer is that the reader enjoys it when he’s unaware of what you’re spoofing, right? While not the first person to satirize literary classics, it’s interesting to see the kind of comedy Holt is capable of weaving.

Suffice to say, it’s thankfully not a retelling of the original Faust story. It’s more like a sequel. Faust manages to break out of hell when hell gets new management. The best bounty hunter is hot on his trail, and chaos ensues. It’s a funny premise, and even a funnier read. Thankfully, the pace is faster in here compared to Flying Dutch. It’s not a can’t-put-down book, but was compelling enough for me to manage reading it by the end of the week. Holt’s style is improving, mind you, and there’s progress compared to Flying Dutch.

Thankfully, Faust Among Equals is a stand-alone book. Unlike some Discworld novels where prior knowledge is sometimes needed to fully appreciate the book, that’s not needed here (although being familiar with Faust can be helpful). Heck, I enjoyed it and I’m not even that familiar with Faust. At this point, I find Holt enjoyable. Not as enjoyable as Pratchett, but he’s getting there. At least it’s more enjoyable than Pratchett’s earlier Rincewind books. And why do I keep comparing Holt to Pratchett? Because Pratchett is God, at least in terms of fantasy comedies. And Holt seems to be following in his footsteps.

Honestly, Faust Among Equals is a funny book. It’s not as polished as I want it to be, but it’s good enough. Some might not even consider Holt fantasy, since he’s using the modern world as the setting, albeit with fantastical elements (oh, I don’t know, like hell, Faust, and other supernatural entities). If anything else, Holt’s writing style is improving, so that’s a good sign, especially if you’ve read his earlier works. I mean it can only get better, right?

[Book Review] Flying Dutch by Tom Holt

One of my officemates was raving about Tom Holt so I thought of picking up a copy of his book at the local bookstore since it was on sale. I mean it’s not everyday that you get good comedy SF&F. Aside from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, no one else really stands out. The back cover blurbs were interesting. The question was, would the actual text be as enjoyable as well?

Well, Tom Holt is a British writer, so his comedy is also British. Admittedly, the first few pages were boring for me. Maybe it’s because it’s the set-up. We get a glimpse of who the main characters are and what their history is. It’s not a pretty history though. And while there are attempts at being funny, they just don’t cut it out for me. At least initially. After the first 50 pages though, things start to heat up and we catch a glimpse of what the story is really about and enter the main conflict.

Flying Dutch can get quite funny. Not as funny, or as sophisticated as Pratchett’s later novels (but thankfully not as boring as his first few Discworld novels) in my opinion, but somewhere along the lines of Douglas Adams. Of course Holt’s setting is modern times, albeit with mystical forces abound. Of course one thing Holt does right though is his cosmology. The setting is like a modern-day Discworld, with consistent and recurring characters throughout the book. It’s not apparent in Flying Dutch, but it’s evident as you read more of his books.

The premise of this book is that the Flying Dutchman, along with his crewmates, has found immortality. Unfortunately, it also has a side-effect of making them stink, repulsing anyone that comes their way. The crew sets out to find a cure, while being chased by someone from the bank because the Flying Dutchman bought life insurance back in the day.

It was an okay book. Not exactly something that entices me to purchase the next book, but a satisfactory read nonetheless. Was it funny? It had its moments. Perhaps not as funny as the best, but it’s not something as simplistic as, say, Piers Anthony. It also helps if you have an appetite for Brit humor. Of course this book is thankfully recommendable since the setting is modern times so there’s really not much to fret about readers getting confused with this and that.