A Thriller with Jokes is the tag line. To suggest that this is in someway a hybrid of Ludlum and O'Farrell would be doing the author an injustice, because it is both the above, yet neither. You see parts of the story that are so very british that it makes you cringe, mixed with such fast paced action that you do end up shooting through the pages to see what happens next.
What you end up with are a bunch of characters that you can relate to in a TV worship kind of way. An aspiring comedian, a resolute newshound, a femme fatale, a fat balding american, the sopranos, they're all in there. The interaction is great, the gags are funny, the timing brilliant, and the story line is simple enough for you to not have to read whole sections again!
This is perfect summer reading for blokes. I'm putting his other book on my wish list today...
on 5 April 2004
...I make that an endorphin rush every thirty seconds in this cracking new comedy thriller from Richard Asplin. Having read and laughed out loud at Asplin’s last book, T-shirt and Genes, I was expecting the barrage of inventive jokes, but the addition of an elaborate and intriguing plot featuring a psycho-nerd, the mafia and a gobby scouser sidekick kept me up half the night reading ‘just one more chapter’.
If like me, you appreciate the wonderful Britishness of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy, you’ll love the story of a bewildered Englishman surrounded by irony-free (and murderous) Yanks. And if you’re a fan of American sitcom, you’ll never be able to look at Frasier or Friends in the same light again.
Funny, funny, thrilling stuff.
on 28 May 2004
A riproaring escapade through the world of sitcom, Gagged is so stuffed full of larger than life characters and cleverly interweaving storylines it's like a bumper holiday edition of all your favourite comicstrips rolled into one. At nearly 600 pages a lesser talent would have lost their momentum, and their readers attention, halfway through. But not so Richard Asplin, who is not only very, very funny, he is also a sickeningly good writer whose descriptive talents and comic timing led me hurtling through this book laughing like a loon.
I am not ordinarily a reader of books like this. I steer clear of comedy for fear of not quite getting the joke, and to be honest, the cover looked a little boy-sy. If it hadn't been forced into my hand by a friendly bookseller I might still be festering away in my own little unfunny land of no laughter. Thankfully Gagged snapped me from my comedy-coma and led me to a place of sunshine and smiles. It's not overtly boy-sy. It's excruciatingly funny and well written, and whether you're a fan of comedy or just a fan of good writing, i'm sure you'll find it a pleasure to read.
Roll on the next Richard Asplin ...
on 19 June 2010
I am delighted that I picked up this book from a charity shop. Not because it meant I got to read this book, but because at least that way it only cost me 2 quid; and Oxfam can hopefully use that money to improve levels of human happiness somewhere in the world, and in so doing offset the misery and suffering I endured thanks to my (inexplicable) decision to plough through this novel to the end.
Let's start with relative strength of the book: the plot. This is out of the Blues Brothers mould, whereby a diverse range of people and groups (ranging from actors, reporters, mafia wiseguys, comedians) are all caught up in the same farcical-criminal tangle, initially unaware of each others' interests, and all coming together at the climax. The twists and reveals, such as there were, were generally easy to see coming from 100 pages out, but at least there was enough complexity of plotting to achieve a moderate page-turning quality.
Now for the bad. Characterisation was toe-curlingly shallow. If there is a cliche or stereotype in the world, these characters embodied it perfectly. Hollywood execs take coke and screw naive actresses in "casting sessions"; young Californian men look like surfers and say "man" and "dude" in every sentence while their valley girl counterparts go shopping and say "like" too often; cops are lazy and eat donuts; Mafia guys talk about "New Joisey, capische"; Mexican guys talk "like theeees, my fren'"; people from the US South dress like cowboys and listen to Tammy Wynette; reporters are upset if people die only because they didn't catch it on camera; I could go on and on.
It's so lazy I can't even find the energy to find it offensive. Presumably the author thinks he is parodying or satirising these stereotypes, but with no aspect of subversion, exaggeration or surrealism injected into these two-dimensional cliches, I fail to see how he is doing anything with the stereotypes except trotting them out.
The main protagonist, meanwhile, is a bland, limp beta male too dismal to generate any empathy. From the outset you basically want him to shut up, grow up and sort his life out. It's therefore very difficult to remotely care for his safety or root for his success as he gets drawn into the danger and conspiracy.
If there's anything worse than the characters it's the jokes. Here's the thing. The basic conceit of the book is our main protagonist is an aspiring stand-up comic / sitcom writer, who is awful, and the secondary protagonist is a Hollywood exec who commissions awful TV comedy. We are therefore treated to excerpts of deliberately bad comedy, which we are supposed to laugh at in a "haha, that joke is so lame" kind of way. However, the book in itself is supposed to be *actually* funny. Unfortunately, the gags in the narration are every bit as weak, flat and try-hard as the "in-universe" naff jokes.
Compare: "Bakery insurance fraud? What was it? Did you knead the dough?" - deliberately, 'satirically' painful. Someone takes their mind off splitting up with their boyfriend by playing miniature golf: "So Al sat, forty-eight years old, unemployed, gay and alone. Playing with his balls" - just plain old painful.
The writing is, for the most part, merely mediocre, but occasionally crosses into jarringly dire. Try this line on for size: "The costume was exactly three sizes too small and about five hundred rediculitres units too ridiculous". OK, inventing a surreal unit to quantify ridiculousness, not a bad concept for a joke. But wouldn't such a unit derived from the word "ridiculous" be "ridiculitres", not "rediculitres"? And wouldn't it be "ridiculitres", not the leaden, unnecessary "ridiculitre units", let alone the outright ungrammatical "ridiculitres units"?
This isn't the only example of editing as poor as the writing: words are used to mean things they don't mean, punctuation is misused, one character changes name from Rob to Bob and back to Rob within a few pages. It's like the editor couldn't even be bothered... and I can hardly blame them.
I have never reviewed anything on Amazon before, but this book stood out as so especially dismal I felt it a necessary public service to warn unsuspecting readers. Overall, this is definitely one of the worst books I have ever read. I can't decide whether to give it straight back to the charity shop, so that they can get another two quid to help the poor and starving, or whether it would be a greater service to humanity to burn it and spare anybody else the misfortune of reading it.