There is nothing betwixt

Posted Tue 03 Mar
1 comments so far

Another post, another review. And as it happens, the reasons for this review are somewhat similar to those of the last one.

Hell Bent on Success then. My usual caveats apply here, in that I am not your target demographic. This book lies somewhat outside my comfort zone (philosophy, theology, politics, history, esoterica) in that it is a novel. Consider, for example, the last novel I did read. Achingly beautiful, fantastically written, intense, disturbing and fufilling.

This next line isn’t saying …but HBoS isn’t any of those, even though it isn’t any of those. I normally wouldn’t have bought this sort of book. It is something akin to Robert Rankin, with whom I never got on. It has delusions of Douglas Adams, and there are a few times it does manage to reach them. (The VSF and the securitisation of internet searches being two of them, both very inventive and both made me smile.)

The main (dead) character comes across very much as a more upbeat (and dead) Marvin, while the Arthur Dent-ness of the main (alive) character is quite evident. Both of which never really caught fire (unlike…heh), but never quite two dimensional. There were sparks of dialogue in there that worked, some didn’t, but mostly it worked. I have to admit the whole ‘there are no law firms in Purgatory’ section was great, and the (dead) lawyer, obnoxious though he was, was certainly my favourite character in the book.

While reading it (and giving it more lattitude than my normal if-I-hate-this-within-50-pages-I-ignore-it) the main thought that struck me was this was a trailer for a movie. Or, to be slightly less harsh, a pilot for a television series. A series of vingettes strung together to form a plot. Of course, for the City set it lampoons, who would certainly enjoy it, it works as a read-a-chapter-between-tube-stops book. Much in the way Pynchon constructed Gravity’s Rainbow between reels of film, the chapters in HBoS (see what he did there?) work like that. Without the bizarre, obscure and dense references ol’ Thomas goes in for, of course.

Shall we muse of the appropriation of Gilgamesh? Sitting here, I can see my tomes that have his Epic in them, with commentary, but that would be a bit unfair. Plus the whole kafflik leanings of the interpretation of the afterlife, well, let us live that aside, too. And the invariably Western Church outlook. None of that matters. Such analysis isn’t to be applied here.

So as some sort of Evil Dead meets H2G2 meets the FT does it work? To an extent, yes, yes it does. I gave a wry smile at places, found several inventive ideas, and engaged with some of the characters. Enough to make me read another? Possibly. The website refers to it as a buddy book, akin to Abbot and Costello. I disagree. It is foil/counterfoil, but not in the buddy style. More in the mentor/disbelieving student way.

I never would have sought this out, other than it does have an interesting premise. I know people who would enjoy this. Several of them. The more conversational tone (again, not what I am used to in the more um, highbrow (wrong word, I think…) novels I read, I like to read ones where I can find meaning in every sentence) lends itself to the genre. There is also somewhat of a zeitgeist feel to it, given the COLLAPSE OF KAPITALISM (you see death throes, I see birth pangs). It is always going to suffer in comparison to H2G2, but every comedy sci/fantasy book will suffer from that, forever more. And given that H2G2 is part of my formative years, and, I would guess, the author’s, there is bound to be both influence and comparision. I found the passages that were more set up to the gag sections to work better, giving the story a bit more breath, than shorter straight in to the punchline ones. Several injokes (one overly belaboured, yeah, yeah, I got it the first time), the Eoin Colfer use of acryonms (rather cleverly, it must be said, and I would love to have seen more use made of the angels) and other touches abound at just the right intervals throughout the book, avoiding any dullness to creep in.

A few of the set pieces fell down, sweeping into the story quickly, and out just as quick, leaving you wondering if you missed something. A consequence of the type of book it is, I guess. Yes, a turn-off-your-brain-at-the-door book (ummm, can’t do that, sorry), reasonably comfortable in what it is doing and where it lives, but without the levels of inference I am used to.

Then again, I am not the target demographic.

  1. see thing is, I love Robert Rankin, so am really looking forward to this. The author has been really responsive and great so am very pleased for the tip off. x

    Thu 26 Mar, 6:29PM

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