Monday, March 19, 2018

Doughnut - Tom Holt

   2011; 344 pages.  Book 1 (out of 4) in Tom Holt’s (completed) Doughnut series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Fantasy; British Humor, Multiverses.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Decimal points are such small things.  A mere dot on the spreadsheet.  A period.  A ‘full stop', if you happen to be British.  So easily overlooked.

    Theo Bernstein was supposed to move the decimal point one place to the right.  Instead, he moved it one place to the left.  If he was an accountant, that would probably cost somebody a few dollars.  Or give somebody a few bucks extra.

    But Theo operates the VVLHC.  That stands for “Very Very Large Hadron Collider”.  He was hoping to generate and detect some new subatomic particle.  Instead he generated an explosion.  Which wiped out an entire mountain in Switzerland.  Along with the VVLHC.  His mistake was detected by all sorts of people.

   No VVLHC means Theo Bernstein no longer has a job.  And you know what they say:

    “The world is an unfair place.  Blow up just one multi-billion-dollar research facility, and suddenly nobody wants to be your friend.”

What’s To Like...
    Doughnut is chronologically the first book in Tom Holt’s 4-volume “YouSpace” series, aka the “Doughnut” series.  I’ve read the other three books and this one follows the standard format.  Theo, our hapless protagonist, finds himself at a new job, with a bunch of bizarre coworkers and strange, nonsensical rules to follow.  The first half of the book is utter mayhem, and the second half of it works slowly but diligently to straighten things out.

    Doughnut is divided into five sections, with some imaginative titles such as “Doughnut Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and “One Empty San Miguel Bottle To Bring Them All And In The Darkness Bind Them”.   There are no chapters, but you can always find a good place to stop: they’re signaled with a cute little doughnut icon.

    The main motif of both this book and this series is Tom Holt having fun with Quantum Physics, with particular emphasis on Multiverses.  The titular doughnut is explained on page 78, although I was already familiar with it, since I read the series out-of-order.   I chuckled at the VVLHC, as well as the “Rope Theory”, a playful poke at Stephen Hawking’s “String Theory”, which seems hauntingly timely, since Hawking just passed away last week.  If you’re a lover of calculus, you’ll enjoy the Ultimate Doomsday Equation, which poor Theo has to solve on page 35.

    Most of the critters to meet are cartoon characters.  Yes, a goblin makes a cameo appearance early on, and a talking bird shows up a short time later.  But the real fun starts when one of the multiverses is inhabited by Disney characters with decidedly unfriendly attitudes.  Ditto for the beasties from A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh stories.  Still, Theoretical Quantum Physics dictates that when there are an infinite number of parallel universes, at least one of them will feature Minnie Mouse looking for a fight and packing an automatic rifle.

    As always, there is an abundance of dry humor and British wit.  Indeed, this is the main reason to read any Tom Holt book.  The ending has a couple of twists and adequately addresses all the bizarre things that happen to Theo.  Doughnut is a standalone novel, as well as being part of a mini-series.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Secateurs (n.) : a pair of pruning clippers for use with one hand.  (a Britishism)
Others : Whinneting (v., a made-up word).

    In the beginning was the Word.
    Hardly likely, is it?  In order for it to be a word, it would’ve had to belong to a language; otherwise it’d just have been a random, meaningless noise – zwwgmf, prblwbl, bweeeg.   You can’t have a one-word language; words need context.  Therefore, of all the things that could possibly exist in isolation at the Beginning, a word is the least plausible.  All right, back-burnerise the Word for now, let’s try something else.  (pg. 199)

    He’d never really thought about death before, except in a vague, objective kind of way.  He was aware that it existed, but so did Omsk; both of them were distant, irrelevant and not particularly attractive, and he had no intention of visiting either of them.  The thought that he might die alone, pointlessly, unnoticed, unaided and quite possibly at the paws of a viciously predatory cartoon character would never have occurred to him, and he was entirely unprepared to deal with it.  (pg. 207)
 Sucrofens, ergo est; it’s sticky; therefore it exists.  (pg. 84)
    I enjoyed Doughnut, although I admit that reading Tom Holt books is an acquired taste.  You have to be ready for a convoluted plotline, which meanders hither, thither, and yon, often seemingly without any literary control by the author.  You can rest assured that Tom Holt will eventually pull it all together, but the fun in each story is in seeing how long it takes him to do so.

        Holt's books also invariably contain some cusswords, which may seem an awkward fit with all the tomfoolery and satire going on.  But somehow, it always works.  Doughnut is no exception, and bear in mind that the cussing in sot excessive.

    Finally, it should be noted that Tom Holt writes in English, not American.  So you will meet words and spellings like colour, realise, Selloptape, maths, whisky, sceptic, and storeys.  This may be off-putting to some (Spellcheck certainly doesn’t like it), but I find novels written in 'English' to be fascinating.

    8 Stars.  There is no such thing as a poor Tom Holt book, although my favorite ones are from his earlier years, when he uses themes from myths and legends, such as the ones reviewed here and here .  All his works are highly recommended.

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