December 9, 2010

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages

Tom Holt

Grade: C+

When I saw the following snippet for Tom Holt's Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages on NetGalley last month, I requested a copy for my Kindle:

Polly is a real estate solicitor. She is also losing her mind. Someone keeps drinking her coffee. And talking to her clients. And doing her job. And when she goes to the dry cleaner's to pick up her dress for the party, it's not there. Not the dress - the dry cleaner's.

And then there are the chickens who think they are people. Something strange is definitely going on - and it's going to take more than a magical ring to sort it out.

From one of the funniest voices in comic fiction today comes a hilarious tale of pigs and parallel worlds.

I read it over the weekend, and while at times I flashed to Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Christopher Moore's Fluke, and the claymation movie Chicken Run - all of which allowed me as an adult to re-experience sheer child-like wonderment - at other times I got lost in a book that featured one too many sub-threads and one moment in the narrative for which there was no logical rationale. Even absurdist fiction, after all, follows a logic of its own, and because Holt otherwise adhered to his own warped premise so well, the one time he failed to do so stuck out like a sore thumb.

Because so many sub-threads make up Holt's book - and because it won't be released until February, 2011 - I don't feel comfortable revealing much about the plot. Polly, a lawyer, believes she must be losing her mind; somebody's drinking her coffee, taking care of items in her files, and then her dry cleaner disappears as though it never existed. She seeks advice from her jingle-creating brother, who deduces, using thoroughly modern means, that magic exists in the world after he wishes his upstairs neighbor away. He and his sister try to make sense of a world gone run more and more amok, discovering along the way an entire "underground" economy devoted to fixing this sort of craziness.

How it all relates to the sow who went out into the world determined to discover the fate of her twelve piglets is something that is revealed only after the introduction of a series of anomalies and strange characters. Because unlike Juster's classic this is a story for adults and not children, readers will need to stay on top of their game throughout the read. Even if they do, though, they may conclude that Holt spun out his story slightly too far, with one too many sub-threads, and with one plot point involving a phantom train that doesn't track back logically (no pun intended).

Holt deserves major kudos for his imagination and often lively story-telling, but I believe his cleverness got the best of him more than once. As a result, the sum of the book's strongest parts do not add up to as strong a whole, which disappointed me. I'm fairly certain others will enjoy Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages more than I did, but I'd recommend Fluke (or any number of other Christopher Moore novels)...or The Phantom Tollbooth before recommending this one.

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Sausages will be published in February; I read an advance copy provided by the publisher.


No comments: