Theatre of the Gods Paperback – 5 Jun 2014
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"Matt Suddain’s debut is a crazily multilayered odyssey through space, time and the universe next door…it’s definitely not dull. No book in which the Pope addresses his enemies as ‘Bumface’ runs that risk." (Imogen Russell Williams Metro)
"Wholly original, and by turns annoying and exhilarating, this antidote to formula fiction reads like Douglas Adams channeling William Burroughs channelling Ionesco, spiced with the comic brio of Vonnegut." (Eric Brown Guardian)
"An extremely literate and clever story… This is a delightful book, full of surreal twists and turns of invention and humour, written in a breezy and engaging manner." (Simon Marshall-Jones Interzone)
"Literate, clever, surreal and inventive" (Bookseller)
Steampunk space opera? Damn right.See all Product description
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The book is also very, very funny. I repeatedly laughed out loud.
The characters are - of necessity - not entirely realistic. But they are credible, and behave with an internal logic that's hard to fault. The story is to an extent driven by character as well as plot, and I never felt that the spectacular scenes - space battles, daring escapes, hand-to-hand combat - were shoe-horned in - they fit in the story, and moved it forward.
But the most important thing is that I loved coming back to this book.It's big, complex, funny, and engaging - even though it's an adventure, it also makes me ponder. And the homunculus gambit is genius!
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!
'...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.
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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