*Full disclosure: The author sent me a copy of his novel in the hope that I would review it.*
It's 2012 and the Olympic Games are only six weeks away. Lord Coe however is rather disgruntled to see Tibetan monks caught up in demonstrations outside Westminster- wanting their countrymen to be allowed to compete in the games. As it turns out, they aren't the only disgruntled nation- there's a lot of discontent over the way the games are handled and who is allowed to participate. It is decided (on a complete whim) that a poet laureate will be appointed to keep the peace- to write inspirational poems about pain, glory and victory... but is a poet really enough to save the Olympic Games from impending disaster, or is he going to incite even more problems?
This comic novel is a topical, humorous look at the actual Olympics as well as a somewhat `fringe' Olympics unintentionally instigated, with funny stereotyped characterisations, apt cameos, nods to popular culture and a wacky plot-line.
From the immediate outset readers meet Welshman Rowan Jones (the poet) who is more than a bit melodramatic. The immediate impression is that he is full of delusions of grandeur about his `gift', but are his delusions actually going to be justified in the long term? In contrast we have Rowan Jones the Police Officer (no relation) who is most certainly not blessed with Rowan Jones (the poets) literary way of thinking, a Transcaucasian president with a grudge against the Olympics that he is *determined* to act upon and a whole host of other madcap, calamitous characters from an ex-Gulag jailbird to an Italian playboy swimmer.
I'm not a fan of sports (at all!) so approached this novel with a bit of caution at first, hoping that it wouldn't go into too much athletic detail but thankfully I needn't have worried about that- this is definitely more of a character driven book that I found myself getting involved in pretty quickly. Despite all the characters (and there are a lot of them) it is never confusing and it is obvious who is who.
Firstly, one of the most appealing aspects of this novel for me was the writing style. The plot flows very well and there's no unnecessary waffle, everything is straight to the point which I liked and is what you would expect in a book of this style. Despite this though, characters are still well developed and you immediately understand their little quirks and character traits. Some of their back stories are very witty and made me want to learn more about them.
This novel is also firmly tongue in cheek and not afraid to poke fun at itself or events in the text. I found myself smiling a lot as I read this book! One of my favourite lines was a description of Rowan Jones (The Poets) home in Wales; "the farmhouse is set in a green and stunningly beautiful section of countryside not too far from cliffs and sandy coves and one of those warm, cuddly and cosy little fishing villages that does not exist outside a work of fiction." There was also an amusing encounter between the president of Transcaucasia and a male/female athlete; "You will get new hormones Anna, believe me, Professor Bogdanovich is working on it. You will be a new man!" Also, the same President managing to constantly change his clothes in the same scene and the little side references to it is funny. I actually think the Transcaucasian president (Osman) was one of my favourite characters in the book.
I did notice a few minor grammatical errors/misused words within the text, (e.g. wondering instead of wandering, retail instead of retell) but they were few and far between and did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel in any way. If I had to criticise anything at all then I would concede that at some point during the start of part four of the novel (around page 155ish), the plot started to lag just a tiny bit and I found my attention wandering. I think this is because the action finally settles in Wales, rather than globe-hopping from character to character like it did previously and the pace of the novel changes. Then the pace of the novel sped up again towards the end and it felt rushed by contrast.
Overall, this isn't my usual genre of novel (it's actually more along the lines of what my boyfriend would read, him being a fan of comic novels and writers like Pratchett, Brookmyre and Rankin), but I found myself pleasantly surprised by it. I will most certainly be passing it over to my partner to give a go next. It kept me entertained for a pleasant few hours and I would read more by Mr Chamberlain in future (I have to wonder if infact Lord Coe has read this book yet!). If you want a topical, humorous read, whether you're a fan of sport or not then give this a go.