For those unaware, I am attempting to be a writer. A real writer, with books and things. I've had a novella published, more than 30 short stories, a number of poems, essays, stuff like that, but that big break novel
has yet to crack into some unsuspecting publisher's subconscious.
Now, one of the joys of being an independent author is that you meet other independent authors and get to share work. I have read a lot
of work by other writers. A lot of what I am given is not in my preferred genres (and the books vary in quality), a deal I get is actually not that good (and I can see why they are not yet published), and a few stun me with their terribleness and I wonder how on Earth they ever did get published.
However, every so often, I get a book by a fellow writer that is a genuine pleasure to read.
Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days
by Drew Melbourne is just such a book.
As regular readers will know, I only write about things here at Weekend Notes
that I like, so you know what my thoughts are already. Drew and I connected over a shared love of Dr Who
and he got me an e-copy of his book. I was reading something else at the time, so it's been sitting on my computer for a month until I finally got off my butt and read the thing.
What a story!
It is a comedy / science fiction novel, in much the same vein as Douglas Adams. But the actual story-line is quite convoluted and demands your attention throughout, like a good space opera. It's sort of like Asimov's Foundation
on steroids and nitrous oxide.
Set in a distant future where magic exists as well as science, an accountant who was sort of the sole survivor of something awful is inexplicably sent on an adventure to save all of time and space, the past and the future, by people he's never even met before, but also people he could well later not know or who would not know him because the nature of the Big Bad in the tale is that of history eraser. See? Convoluted. Still, that's the plot in a nutshell. In the course of events people die and come back to life (a lot), he destroys a major religion, finds an unspeakable timeless horror, goes through 11 dimensions and foldspace, we meet his mother, and a chef makes him a nice tuna sandwich. Oh, and he meets a girl.
The story moves along at a rapid pace; no sooner is something happening than something else is happening. There is hardly time to breathe, and that's a reason why, once I got to it, the book took me less than three days to read. The humour is a mix of subtle and overt; the science fiction is a mixture of hard and fantasy-based. And there's certainly more than a dash of gore-spatter horror within. Quite the mix, and yet it all works. It's that sort of a book.
That's not to say there aren't imperfections. Some of the modern pop culture references grate like anachronisms. Percival Gynt occasionally has character lapses; Tarot is an uneasy character to get a handle on. There are a couple of times where the Fourth Wall is broken and because it happens so rarely, it does stand out. Some of the Hitch Hikers Guide…
-like interludes work; others feel a little tacked on. And deus ex machina
rears its ugly head on more than one occasion (look, I know there's magic involved and all that, but it feels too convenient sometimes). However, these are minor quibbles in the whole scheme of things.
And, on a personal note, I wanted to know what happened between Tarot and Percival at the end!
The story moves along at a rapid pace, like I said, and you quickly forget that the author mentions MTV or YouTube or the Apple Corporation. The time-stop works well and is not over-used; Um's character is a great one, and Esme grew as a character as the story went on, quite organically and naturally. That the semi-bad Governor ended up being a hero was a nice twist; that Halla ended up being who she was was an even nicer one. And the final denouement actually made sense in light of the book's themes.
Then the little Epilogue was a satisfying ending.
Look, this book is not going to win awards, but genre fiction seldom does. It is an enjoyable read, funny and full of adventure, and I recommend it whole-heartedly. Drew Melbourne is a talented author, and I can't wait to get more of his work. I think I could see myself collecting his output.
You can find it at Amazon.