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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.
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on 10 July 2013
It is incredibly hard to get to grips with the fact that this is a first novel. Every time I try to get my head round that it just doesn't compute. It is so accomplished, so sharp, so witty, so mad, dangerous, big-hearted, fun, complex, easy, complete, challenging...everything! It is so beautifully constructed and such a great story that you'd think it was a journeyman-author's masterpiece; one written after 10 near-misses.

Theatre of the Gods is the most surprising and unusual book I've ever read. It's just not remotely like anything I've ever read before - and believe me, my brain was crying out to put it in a box! I found one box: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, but then I took it out of that box again a few chapters later because I really don't think there is any part of Theatre of the Gods that really and truly reminds me of any other author in any other genre. It's that good. It's totally and utterly unique.

You don't need to be a Sci-Fi fan (I'm not really) or a Fantasy fan (I'm not really that either) to absolutely love this book. It has such quality. Such class. It is so wonderfully human - which is strange considering many of the characters! It falls somewhere between genius and madness - in a good way! The use of words, the way the sentences are constructed, the descriptions, characters, dialogue and plot constantly surprised me. It is literary fiction at its very, very best. I'm not surprised there was a bidding war between publishers to get their hands on this book. If this is a first novel, we're in for a hell of a ride in the future!

Oh and Homunculus. There's that too!
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To be honest this is a book I put off reading for quite some time. Not because I thought that it was going to be bad but at the moment I've had so many titles from established names land that I had to figure out priorities. Sadly this was one of the times when I went against my gut that said "Try the new guy;"

So when starting this, I started to kick myself for putting it off so long. The writing is sharp, the characters not just believable but wonderfully rounded and fully fledged and when added to an overall arc that puts Steampunk in Space really gave me a story that I couldn't put down (so much so that I finished at 4:30 AM.

Throw into the mix a debut that puts a number of established names to shame and all round if you only read one Steampunk debut this year make it this one.
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on 4 December 2013
I spent the first half hour wondering whether I liked this book. And I still didn't know until I'd finished it! But it kept me thoroughly entertained until I finished it, so I suppose I must have done.

It is a fantasy/future history/science fiction/steampunk/spy thriller of a high order and I'll be looking out for more books by the same author, as well as the issue with illustrations, the one with PRISM 4.7 enabled. I would also like to see an illustration of the homunculus.

Welcome additions to the book are the Little Page of Calmness and the User's Manual.
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on 27 March 2016
A beautifully flawed work of near-genius, Theatre of the Gods is spectacularly ambitious and at times delivers on that promise with gusto. A sort of steampunk sci fi space opera with roots in Douglas Adams but very much its own beast, this thing thunders along dragging the hapless reader in its wake. Often baffling, frequently amusing, unexpectedly poignant and particularly, almost offensively, original and inventive.
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on 11 August 2014
I'll start by saying I like fantasy, sci-fi and books that use a good bit of imagination so this sounded right up my street. While there were a few good bits I gave up any hope of wanting to finish it at 65%. It just seemed to jump from one random environment scenario to another without enough progression of the underlying narrative which just got tedious. This is the first book I think I've ever given up on before finishing it.
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on 20 August 2015
Possibly, just possibly, the maddest and greatest book I have ever read.
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on 29 June 2013
Superb. I had the pleasure of reading a pre release and it took over my life for week and a half on holiday. I barely noticed I left the country. Bloody good book.
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