Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tom Holt: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages

A quick review for the Tom Holt book Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages, which I’ve had lying around for a while, but have only just got round to finishing. It’s one of his post Portable-Door series ones, taking the same world, full of corporate magicians and strange monsters in a world that is so everyday it might as well be Wales on a wet Tuesday afternoon, but running new ideas through it.

Dimensional travel, in this case, with a full set of strange occurrences adding up to a dimension shifting plot that takes most of the best bits of Holt’s time travel routine and does away with the tendency of time travel to destabilise the plot. He also plays around cleverly with the notion of character archetypes by having the same basic characters appear in a number of interdimensional incarnations.

The jokes and observations on the world are as witty as ever, with a dry tone that I really like, which gives his work a very different feel to Pratchett’s, for example. In particular, Holt has the knack of pushing the logic of things to the extreme, while still remembering what people are like with just the right amount of cynicism. If magic were real, we all secretly know that we would end up in a world where we needed to fill in form 23b before using it.

There are a couple of minor down points. The plot manages the trick of both being a little tricky to follow in places and giving away the surprise ending fairly easily, which makes it feel like the fundamental story is a little secondary to the laughs. There’s also a sense that you really need to be someone who has read all the portable door series if you’re going to get the full effect of the world being written. At the same time though, it’s a nice, funny book that should please Tom Holt fans, even if I’d suggest that, of his more recent works, May Contain Traces of Magic might be a better place for newcomers to his stuff to start. (Or buy one of the lovely omnibus editions of his early stuff)


Amanda Borenstadt said...

Sounds super! I haven't read any Tom Holt. Maybe I should start the Portable Door series.

stu said...

It's certainly my favourite. Just with the titles of the sequels: Earth, Air, Fire and Custard, In Your Dreams, You Don't Have to Be Evil to work here but it helps, and so on. There's five or six now, but since they don't read as a series per se, it's not essential to read them all, or even read them in order after the first couple.