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Echoes in the Valleys of Perception
on 28 June 2013
If Jasper Fforde wrote space opera, it might come out a little like Theatre of the Gods. This is a rambling shaggy dog story of multiple universes, time travel and interdimensional space jumps. There are also some terrible puns based around obscure pop-culture references. If you like those sorts of things, you'll love it. The novel is a direct descendant of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and its no surprise to discover that M Suddain is an anagram of 'I am D Adams', albeit using different letters.
'...the deadly fossil squid, who sinks itself into the mud and pretends to be a fossil, waits to be dug up, then kills and eats the discoverer...'
I must confess I didn't quite know what to expect from this book, when I opened it. Published by a new (fictional) imprint, Blacklist Publishing, purveyors of banned books and with an opening that includes the words 'every word you are about to hear, is a lie! Even these ones!', it certainly grabs its readers' attention, but it took me a while to find my way in.
Chapters are comparatively short and contain a host of peculiar personalities, and at least as many different ideas and concepts, many of which are, well, a bit silly. So at first I struggled. Who was who?, what were they doing?, and why were they doing it? More to the point, I couldn't help wondering, why should I care?
But gradually Suddain drew me in. His peculiar breed of humour is infectious; before long I was reading on, enthralled, waiting for the next set piece, the next joke. The novel is packed with adventure and daring-do. On top of the space/time/interdimensional travel, there's mind-control, a giant worm, fantastical priests, ruthless assassins, cannibals, an insane pope and even an enormous homunculus. There is also a most wonderful life observation involving slippers.
The characters are memorable and their exploits outrageous. I have no idea whether the book is logically consistent, but it was so much fun, who cares? I certainly didn't notice any errors, I was too busy laughing.
'So I say this to you reviewers, professional and amateur: save your rancorous reviews and scarlet epigrams...' (p517)
Theatre of Gods is a highly entertaining novel. Fans of Adams, Pratchett and Fforde will find much to love and there's even of soupçon of Stephenson thrown in for good measure. A dazzling and audacious debut, pulled off with aplomb.