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Quick Light Flame-Grilled Whopper Of The Brain
on 5 December 2012
The elevator pitch for this might read something like `Bill And Ted meets Only Fools And Horses'. But to use an elevator pitch would be to suggest this madcamp romp travels only in the vertical. Whereas it loops and spirals and tangles like a ball of wool batted around by the cat that makes its appearance somewhere in the middle of proceedings.
The cat, to be fair, is a minor feature, but in reading you tend to want to take note of every little plot point because the author has woven (presumably with all that leftover wool) a temporal tapestry like a cross between the Bayeux and an Escher print.
But even if all that wool's been used up, it's not as though you'll need it to navigate your way through the labyrinth. In some respects, it's as simple as it is clever, with its helpfully straightforward delivery and an often conversational narrative and, like the famous Doctor Who scarf, follows a clear pattern. (And the Doctor Who influence is clear in the choice of time-travel vehicle - a grandfather clock, with an amusing cut-down version of the bigger-on-the-inside aspects of the TARDIS.) Sure, there are points where you wonder how the heck the author is going to bring the diverse elements together, but you're never lost.
The pattern also happens to be the story's key enemy: although it has the pace of a rollercoaster, it does tend to run fairly rampantly from chase to chase, with very little time for moments of suspense or anticipation. The velocity leads to a smattering of typo-like bumps on the track, but those are forgivable. What you get is a swift read, which is no bad thing, but with some sections that whiz by in a blur. Entertaining at the time, but ultimately remembered as lots of the same.
Fast and fun are the order of the day. While the `gentlemen' of the title come with hints of Del Boy and Rodney, the tale has shades of Dirk Gently - although it's less a Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul, more a Quick Light Flame-Grilled Whopper Of The Brain. With a colourful collection of crooks, swords and sorcerers, robots and rascals, private dicks and temporal tricks, the author keeps you guessing as to how he's going to tie it all together.
Indeed, he quite unashamedly doesn't. But I don't want to say too much about the loose threads as the author makes a great play on them. He's plainly the sort who takes great pleasure in leaving things dangling, but as long as he does it in the privacy of his own book, that's okay.
It's true, I do have to fulfil the time-honoured role, at the close of many a detective mystery, of the person who says, "But there's still one thing I don't understand." But, like a certain class of super-organised person on or around the 15th December, everything important is successfully wrapped up. And there is plenty in this rollicking adventure to fuel a sequel.
Time has been called. We just have to wait for the pub doors to open again.