Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Good, The Bad and the Smug - Tom Holt

   2011; 344 pages.  Full Title : The Good, The Bad and The Smug – A Novel Beyond Good and Evil.  Book 4 in Tom Holt’s Doughnut series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Fantasy; Contemporary Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    The Good.  Efluviel is an elf, and all elves are good, aren’t they?  She’s an aspiring journalist, but currently finds herself unemployed, when Mordak the goblin king, buys her newspaper and fires everyone.  She can have her job back, but it will mean compromising some of her ideals.

    The Bad.  Mordak is a goblin, and all goblins are bad, aren’t they?  But lately he’s been proposing some radical changes to goblin protocol.  Things like making peace with the dwarfs (heresy!), and even – dare we say it – cooperating with the elves.

    The Smug.  He seems to go by several names, and has this really nifty spinning wheel that can turn straw in to gold.  But the weird thing is, he doesn’t seem to want anything in return.  Just bring him the straw and he’ll convert it into gold and give it right back to you.  He has to have some angle, but what?

What’s To Like...
    The Good, The Bad and The Smug is the fourth book in Tom Holt’s “Doughnut” series, of which I’ve now read numbers 2 through 4.  In a nutshell, think of the hole in a doughnut as being a portal to another reality.  Holt uses the dimension-hopping to deal with all sorts of topics, and here, as the title implies, he examines the concepts of Good and Evil, and their relativistic nature.

    To a certain degree, this is a sequel to book 3, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice (reviewed here), which I very much enjoyed.  But don’t fret that this might be a rehash of that tale; Mordak is the only major character that carries over, and the settings, themes, and tone are totally different here.

    There are multiverses and donuts, and some gentle pokes with items like YourTubes, FaceBooks, Multisoft, Wickedpedia, and my favorite, The Fount Of All Knoledg.  Goblins have now made the jump into our world, where their bodies morph into human form.  But they’re still goblins at heart, and the only gainful employment they generally find is in the movie-making industry, as extras (playing goblins, naturally).

    Mordak and Efluviel make for a great pair of adventurers, and Holt keeps introducing you to all sorts of interesting supporting characters - Archie, Art and his cohort, and the hilarious Unconventional Sisters to name just a few.  Even the Dark Lord has a certain charm about him.

    As always, Holt addles our brains with a bunch of seemingly unrelated storylines (Mordak/Efluviel, Archie, Rumplestiltskin, and the Dark Lord), and as always he brings them all together at the end for a satisfying ending.  There’s a fair amount of adult language, but that’s true of any Tom Holt book.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Skive (n.) : an instance of avoiding work or duty.  (a Britishism)
Others : Menisci (n., plural); Insouciant (adj.);

    Generally speaking, when (Goblins) lose a war, they retire into their deep, dark underground lairs, which no enemy has ever penetrated (no enemy has ever wanted to), lick their wounds, regroup, execute their king and replace him with a new one, and set about gearing up for the next war.  A simple and reliable approach, which had always worked well; and yet, Mordak thought, one that could be improved upon, particularly if you were the king.  (pg. 69)

    Oglak had a little troll,
    Its coat was stiff as wire;
    So every time it scratched itself,
    It set its bum on fire.  (pg. 239)

 “Be it never so dark, damp, deep, musty and littered with yellowing bones, there’s no place like home.”  (pg. 144)
    The Good, The Bad and The Smug is another read-worthy effort by Tom Holt that I liked almost as much as its predecessor.  But not quite.  It was nothing major, just a couple minor things.

    For starters, there are less fairytale characters than in the previous book, and more time is spent in our mundane dimension.  The secondary theme here, which we (and Rumplestiltskin) can aptly label “Economic Growth”, is somewhat dull by nature.  The disparate plotlines seemed a bit harder to follow, and seemed to stay confusing longer than usual.  And I never did figure out if Ozork and Archie are one and the same.

    But I pick at nits.  I’ve yet to be disappointed in any Tom Holt book; it’s just a matter of dividing them into “good” and “great”.

    8 Stars.  Add ½ star if you think Economic Systems are a wonderful topic for discussion, thank you very much.

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