Top positive review
Caught up in The Web of Machinations
1 November 2014
This is an ambitious first novel which wears its influences - some Tom Holt, the more light-hearted parts of Jasper Fforde and liberal doses of Terry Pratchett - on its sleeve. The titular Quentin is yanked from his comfortable tea-and-biscuits life and thrust into becoming a hapless one-man crime-wave and eventually the person upon whom the safety of the world depends. The plot brings together a disparate cast of characters (from an itchy Scottish tramp with a wandering accent to the king of a newly-independent Welsh monarchist state, via a group of computer hackers who bring to mind Monty Python's People's Front of Judea) in a quickly escalating and increasingly surreal series of events and a surprisingly action-packed finale.
The real star here is Pack's febrile imagination. This is a writer who is clearly writing for his own enjoyment as much as that of the reader, and seems to be quite happy to be caught showing off with a clever turn of phrase. He who keeps the puns coming thick and fast, and if any miss the mark the reader can rest assured it will be swiftly followed by two or three absolute gems.
Overall, this is a writer very much in charge of his characters: he takes a hero (in the loosest possible sense) who is selfish and a little narcissistic and has him - by the end of his adventure - go through the minimal amount of personal growth possible, and that's a refreshing change in an age when characters' quests have to be both literal and metaphorical. This is a novel that is completely unafraid to be that most difficult of things: clever and funny. I look forward with great anticipation to Quentin's next adventure, or the next bonkers notion to fall out of the head of Alastair Pack.