Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Faust Among Equals - Tom Holt

   1994; 292 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Mythopoeia; Humorous Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    “Lucky” George Faustus has done something unprecedented.  He’s escaped from Hell.  They want him back, but because of his deal with the minions there, they can’t touch him.

    Ah, but the Devil’s in the details.  He may be off limits to the fiendish hordes, but there’s nothing stopping them from posting a reward and letting bounty hunters do their work for them.

    Kurt “Mad Dog” Lundqvist is the best bounty hunter ever.  He does it for the money, he does it for the thrill of the chase, and he does it cuz he’s mean.  And once he decides to go after George, there is going to be Hell to pay.

What’s To Like...
    Faust Among Equals is Tom Holt’s light-hearted musings on what might have happened to the character in German legends after his soul has been confined to Hell.  This is not to be confused with Goethe’s (version of) Faust, who has a happier fate.

    It has the usual Holt zaniness, as Lundqvist chases George hither, thither, and yon.  Along the way, we meet a host of secondary characters.  Some are famous – Sitting Bull, “Lenny” da Vinci, Helen of Troy, Don Juan.  Some are not – Links Jotapian, the three Spectral Warriors, and Larry & Mike.  The latter are a hoot.  Well actually, they’re more of a squawk.

    The chase is global, including the Australian Outback, which also figured significantly in a recent book I read (the review is here).  But the geographical highlight is a Theme Park called EuroBosch, designed and built by one Hieronymus “Ronnie” Bosch.  Hey, I’d pay good money to gain entry into that amusement park.

    The characters aren’t deep, but they are certainly interesting.  For all his ruthlessness, I kind of warmed up to Lundqvist.  He doesn’t have access to magic like George does, so he has to rely on his own wits and meanness.  I inherently root for the underdog.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Boffin (n.)  :  a person engaged in scientific or technical research.  (a Britishism)

    Engineers are like mountain-climbers; not in the sense of having bushy beards and no toes because of frostbite, but because the one thing they really can’t resist is a challenge.  Ask an engineer to change the washer on a leaking tap and he’ll tell you to get lost.  Show him a design for making water roll uphill without pressure and drive a flywheel and ask him if he thinks it might work, and before you know it he’s reaching for his Vernier calipers and his slide rule, and all you’ve got to do is decide whether you want the flywheel in pale fawn or avocado.  (pg. 189)

    “You do realize,” she said huffily, “that this is a gun I’m-“
    “Yeah,” Lundqvist sighed, “sure.  To be precise, it’s a .25 Bauer, chrome finish, early seventies at a guess, pearl grips and machine engraving on the rear of the slide.  I imagine you chose it to go with your earrings.”
    Helen was impressed.  “You can tell all that from feeling it in your ear?”
    “Lady,” Lundqvist replied with dignity, “I’ve had more pieces shoved up my ear than you’ve had men.  The difference is, I can tell them apart in the dark.”
    “Pig.”  (pg. 278)

 Idiots rush in where demons fear to tread.  (pg.  254)
    For all of its plusses – good writing, humor, thrills and spills, Faust Among Equals lacks one critical thing – a compelling plotline.  At its heart, FAE is really just a book-long chase.  Now I admit, if I have to read a 300-page chase, I want the author to be Tom Holt.  But without a good story to accompany it, you can’t really call it a masterpiece.  Remember the old Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt?  With that fantastic chase scene up and down the hills of San Francisco.  But what was the movie’s plotline?  Yeah, I don’t remember either.

    Don’t get me wrong, Faust Among Equals was still an entertaining read.  But when I think back on my favorite Tom Holt books, this isn’t going to jump to the forefront.

    7 Stars.  Add 1 star if you think storylines just get in the way of the exciting parts of a book.  Add another ½ star if you actually do remember the plotline to Bullitt.

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