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on 27 July 2011
"In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose" reminds me of William Goldman's classic "The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure." This comparison might seem tenuous, especially for anyone only familiar with the movie. Both contain portions of an imaginary book interspersed with contemporary tales from the narrator. Each has a story that is larger-than-life, at least in the eyes of the narrator when imagining the main character of the make-believe book. Last, both have a sense of humor. Newsweek described "The Princess Bride" as "nutball funny." The same goes for "Harrison Dextrose."

Taken too far, my comparison falls apart. "The Princess Bride" is fantasy. "Harrison Dextrose" isn't, although it does largely happen in countries and among cultures that don't actually exist. Maybe it could be called fanciful instead. Although Harrison Dextrose's original trip was purported to have happened in the 1970s and Alexander's ten years later, both feel as though they are happening much earlier and satirize accounts of explorers from long ago.

The humor is sometimes subtle; what would you make of a boat named the "Unsmoked Haddock" or someone who counted the bullets from a machine gun? There are sly pop cultural references- for example, a dwarf who expects Alexander to know the next line in a quote from The Blues Brothers movie or describing a ship as "held together by barnacles; if they joined a barnacle cult and committed mass suicide, we'd be left clinging to planks."

Overall, I found In the "Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose" a fun and entertaining read. The mix of action-adventure and "nutball" humor might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
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on 29 May 2008
Before you begin reading this book let me reassure you that there's no need to panic - there is a sequel. You will only need to read the first chapter to appreciate this piece of information because, by that point, you will already have been sucked into the world of Alexander Grey and Harrison Dextrose and be loath to leave it.

The author has managed a neat trick with `In the footsteps..'; the outward silliness is underpinned with a razor sharp intelligence that raises this novel way above an enjoyable but transient read to an intellectually challenging piece of work that on every re-reading reveals another layer of meaning. For all that this is an exuberant and fun novel, it is no throwaway beach read.

And it's funny! Properly funny, laugh-out-loud-on-a-train funny - people may move away from you on public transport, but you won't care. And you'll probably miss your stop too. This is the most negative thing I can say about this book; read it when you're travelling and you'll add half an hour to every journey as you trek back to where you meant get off. Griffiths' has a real flair for comic names as well as comic situations - from the title character to Detritos the dwarf - that are both funny and extremely clever. But it's not all laughs; I defy any reader not to be moved when Alexander has his tree sprite friend, Wilf, round for dinner.

Nick Griffiths is an extremely talented writer; the narrative is lively and engaging, pulling you through the novel. And as for his characters - the situations that he places them in may be fantastical but they are blessed with such recognisable human flaws that you can't help but care about them.

Buy this book. Then buy it for your friends. Then for your enemies. And then possibly for strangers in the street. You'll be spreading a little bit of joy in the world.

`In the footsteps of Harrison Dextrose' - should replace the Bible in every hotel room.
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on 4 June 2008
I bought this after enjoying the author's previous work, `Dalek I Loved You', although I was slightly wary after reading the synopsis - it all sounded a little bizarre. And in reality it is bizarre, but the writing is so engaging that you are drawn in and immediately begin to consider Alexander's world perfectly normal.

The narrative romps along making it difficult to put down, but it is much more than an adventure: it also comments on modern society in a way reminiscent of Gulliver's travels.

Along the way we are treated to raucous extracts from Dextrose's original journal, reminded of the pains of growing up by flashbacks to Alexander's childhood and empathise with Grey as he develops from wastrel to adventurer. However, what really makes it all so enjoyable is the author's intelligent wit. As the other reviewers, I laughed: out loud and often.

Don't be misled by the synopsis, this isn't an absurd fantasy, it is accessible, clever and downright funny. Immerse yourself in an intelligent and humorous novel and enjoy the ride. Just be warned that life may be a little dull afterwards.
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on 23 June 2008
Having read Dalek I Loved You, I was keen to read anything written by Nick Griffiths and ITFOHD didn't disappoint.
This book completely appealed to my sense of the absurd. It's a great adventure and the central character Alexander is nerdy yet charming. The situations and places he finds himself in and the characters he meets along the way come pouring out of the mind of one of the most imaginative and original writers I have come across in a long time.
Definitely buy this book. You will love it. It will make you feel good!
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on 24 June 2008
In the Footsteps of.... is one of the most entertaining and funny books I've read since finishing my last Douglas Adams.

What kind of mind can imagine, let alone scribe (er... type), such a fantastic and continually witty story?

I ACTUALLY laughed out loud - yes, really - and in public. How shameful and un-british.

If you have a sense of humour and an imagination read this. If you don't then don't.
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on 24 June 2008
After thoroughly enjoying "Dalek I Loved You", the author's previous book, I was eagerly anticipating his first novel. I was not disappointed. This book is hilarious - full of grotesque characterizations, surreal situations and lots of hidden references to decipher. It had me laughing out loud, and I cannot wait for the sequel.
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on 13 May 2008
I bought this book out of curiosity and wasn't sure what it was. Luckily it turned out to be a highly entertaining and imaginative adventure - not quite like anything else I have read to date. It is very quirky but a real page turner. Definitely worth the experiment. I hope there will be more to follow!
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on 30 July 2008
Never reviewed a book on Amazon but the last bloke sounds like he has an axe to grind! Hardly fair to comment on a book when you can only manage two chapters.

No idea who popbitch is, so dunno about that. Not read any Douglas adams either.

But this book is brill.

True, you do have to have a certain sense of humour - very dry - think Curb Your Enthusiasm, Withnail. I loved the made-up names and places - some of them are quite clearly piss-takes on real countries which maybe not everyone will get. Real imagination too - if you just want a run-of the-mill plot and background, then no, you would not like this book.

I lent it to some of my mates, one of whom has written a review below - so no, def not publishers!

Take this book on holiday. Take it on the tube. It's a very funny read.

Might be an idea to read more than two chapters though!
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on 26 August 2008
I was given a copy of this book a few weeks ago before heading off on holiday. I had no idea what it was about but was grabbed within the opening pages.

Its funny, surreal, well written and leaves you wanting more.

It reminds me of magnus mills meets roald dahl.

I challenge anyone to read this book and not enjoy it.
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on 30 July 2009
If you're looking at this - which presumably you are - with at least some sort of interest in buying it, then don't delay: grab a copy, dip in and hang on for the ride.

Essentially, it's a really fun, funny book which is both well-written and entertaining (fancy...!). As Alexander Grey stumbles through a variety of grim and surreal countries, tracing the route his hero took many years before, a host of colourful friends and foes leap from the shadows to provide laughter along the way, from a quartet of lecherous, Miss Havisham-like crones with designs on his body, to the diminutive dictator, Ike, who refers to Armageddon as "The Day That Is Not Good".

Occasionally the narrative takes subtle side-steps to look back both at Alexander's own past and also at the titular Dextrose's original trip via excerpts from his book, The Lost Incompetent. The former in particular were amongst my favourite bits, more often than not being surprisingly poignant as Grey recalls a childhood spent feeling out of place. Similarly it's a testament to the author's skill that the most revolting chapter in the entire novel, involving a vole, somehow manages to end on a tender note, despite the gorge-rising events of the preceding paragraphs.

Another particular favourite was the multi-talented dwarf, Detritos, but to say more here would be to give the game away. In the words of Beverley Callard, "What yer waiting for - ger for it!"
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