Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Philosophical Strangler - Eric Flint


    2001; 432 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Comedic Fantasy.  Book #1 in the Joe's World series.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    Make way for the foremost strngulations-for-hire enterprsie in New Sfinctr : the brains & brawn duo of Ignace and Greyboar.  The latter does the deeds and the former handles the business end.

    Lately, Greyboar's been smitten by a new fancy - Philosophy.  And when you're more interested in achieving the cosmic states of Languor, Torpor, and Stupor than squeezing off breathing passages, it's bound to impact the profits.

What's To Like...
    There are a bunch of fascinating characters besides Ignace and Greyboar.  Cat is a myopic swordswoman looking to wreak vengeance on someone named Schrodinger.  Jenny and Angela are a pair of sexy, gay nymphs ("bi", actually, if Ignace is to be believed).  Hrundig is a barbarian mercenary who will remind you of Pratchett's Cohan.  Benvenuti "Benny" Piccolomini is a handsome artist, and the ex-BF of Gwendolyn, the fearsome sister of Greyboar.

    The text is rich with witty aphorisms, and there's a neat, hilarious, and totally useless  map.  The book is written in the first-person, courtesy of Ignace's cynical view of life.

    The Philosophical Strangler spoofs philosophy (natch), epic fantasy, Dante's Inferno, and even Quantum Physics.  But there are also some more serious topics, including racism (dwarf pogroms) and organized religion(s).

Kewlest New Word...
Hoyden : a boisterous, bold, and carefree girl.

Excerpts...
    Then, thankfully, my pain was eased because business hit what would have been a dry spell for us anyway, because Greyboar wouldn't have taken any of the six commissions offered to burke Amelie.  Tough cookie, Amelie.  She hired stranglers to strangle stranglers, and managed to stay unchoked for a fortnight.  But then she died of poisoning.
    The dry spell would have continued, however, because the courts ruled that the last sister on that side of the family - Arianne - was the heir.  But Arianne only lasted a day.  Committed suicide.  Stabbed herself twelve times in the back.  (pg. 142)

    I prepared for the worst.  Just about the very absolute worst I could imagine.  I'd never thought I'd die of old age in a bed, mind you.  But still!  Being devoured by an ogre in a sewer was a bit much.
    Suddenly, the monster sniffed again.  Then again.  I realized it had detected the odor of the cheese in the knapsack.  Nasty, gooey stuff, it was.  Jenny and Angela had scrounged it up just before we left.  Neither Greyboar nor I had touched the crap, after taking one look at it.  I cringed.
    "Camembert!" squealed the horror.  "And I've got just the wine for it, too!  A nice little pinot noir I've been saving!"  (pg. 353)

"Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity," as the wise man says.  (pg. 7)
    For all its plusses, TPS lacks one key element - a plotline.  The book comes off more like a series of short stories that are all pretty much the same.  The humor gets repetitive and the only plot progression is Greyboar getting more and more choosy about what business propositions to accept, based on his "professional ethics".

    Fortunately, Eric Flint's writing skills keep things from becoming completely boring, and about 2/3 of the way through, we finally get to the Dante-esque quest, which is long enough to qualify as a plotline.  But there is a lot of meh to trudge through first.

  The Philosophical Strangler will never be considered Eric Flint's masterpiece - that would be 1632, reveiwed here.  One senses that the author would agree.  He put out one sequel - Forward The Mage - then let the series grind to a halt.  5½ Stars.

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