Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Polly thinks she may be losing her mind. Each time she makes a cup of coffee at work, someone else drinks it. The same someone is talking to her clients. But the worst thing is when she goes to pick up a dress at the dry cleaner and discovers it's disappeared. No, not the dress. The dry cleaner.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1841495071

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Imagine a world where pigs can do quantum mechanics, and where female solicitors turn into chickens. Add a dry cleaner that moves (literally, from the roof tiles to the basement) from town to town every forty-eight hours, a couple of medieval knights who've fought every day for centuries, and a magical ring (or pencil sharpener, depending on the mood it's in). Stir in a bit of property developing, a thaumaturgical detective and an old man who lives in a cloud. Result? You haven't even begun to probe the depths of this crazy, absurd, complex and hilarious book.

Polly is a real estate solicitor, the lowest of the low as far as her friends are concerned. Needless to say, her feeling of misery is only compounded by her suspicion that she is losing her marbles. Her brother Don, on the other hand, is an easy-going musician who will happily bumble along in life, spending weeks on the creation of a single jingle and getting paid vast amounts of money for doing so. Both their lives begin to unravel quite spectacularly when a magical artefact escapes from its owner and finds its way into Don's pocket. He makes one of his neighbours disappear, communes with his childhood self (realising, in the process, that his parents must have been saints not to have strangled him before he hit puberty) and ends up accessing a parallel world through his fridge.

Reading Tom Holt is, to some extent, an acquired skill. You have to get used to not having an overview of the plot right away (and, for some elements, not until the final couple of paragraphs), and your disbelief must be so firmly suspended a hurricane wouldn't shift it. It's rather like trying to read a jigsaw puzzle, and there's no point in struggling: just relax and enjoy the feeling of pleasure you experience when you discover two pieces that fit together. It helps if you are well-read and have a good working knowledge of recent political, financial and celebrity shenanigans. You will gain a lot more from the humorous references if you enjoy Radio Four and some of the better TV programmes. This particular tome, for example, makes glancing references to Blackadder and Red Dwarf as well as The Lord of the Rings, Chicken Run, Operation Stack, the Flying Dutchman and that brainy camel in Discworld. You'll also find Star Trek, Kafka, the American Declaration of Independence and Monty Python – though why Microsoft and every real estate solicitor ever born haven't sued Mr Holt remains a mystery.

The thing about Tom Holt is that he is the master of misdirection. You meet a character, watch a short scene, and then the action bowls along so fast you don't have time to wonder how they fit into the plot. And it may well be that they are exactly what they seem: brief cameos introduced to mirror a plot theme, or to reinforce a minor point. On the other hand, they could be the nub of the thing, the crazy axis upon which the whole fantastical plot is based. With Holt, anything is possible. His writing is in the same mould as that of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Jasper Fforde: extraordinary worlds where the mundane sits cheek by jowl with the utterly ridiculous, where the internal logic of a plot may be mind-blowing, but will always be ruthlessly consistent and coherent - worlds so convincing you become immersed and return to Planet Everyday a little astonished not to see yourself surrounded by over-sexed goblins, emotionally challenged robots and the occasional Cheshire cat.

One thing is sure. If you like erudite, silly humour you'll love this book. But it will be a long time before you can open the loo door without pausing to wonder who might be fighting a battle to the death just behind it.

Many thanks to Orbit for sending us this splendid book.

Tom Holt has written lots of wonderfully silly books; Bookbag particularly recommends Blonde Bombshell. You probably already know Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but you may have missed The Salmon of Doubt. Mort is a fine example of the work of Terry Pratchett, and you could do worse than start your acquaintance with Jasper Fforde by reading Shades of Grey.

Buy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt at

Buy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt at


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