FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
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Clarke, Susanna
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Feist, Raymond E.
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Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
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Gemmell, David A.
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Reviewing Literature
The Books Of Michael Gerber

Born in 1969 Michael Gerber's writing has been published in, amongst others,  The New Yorker, Playboy and The Wall Street Journal.  He lives in Chicago with his wife and three cats.
Average Review Score: 3.5 out of 5 (4 books)

Barry Trotter And The Shameless Parody
The first Barry Trotter book.  If you read this book, don't expect a scene-by-scene rehashing of the original work (as 'Bored Of The Rings' and 'The Soddit' are).  Instead, Gerber decides to parody the merchandising explosion surrounding Harry Potter (which, ironically, this book is a part of), as Barry and his friends attempt to stop the unavoidable movie adaption that will ruin their lives.  There's plenty of poignant references to the cynical exploitation of both the books and the people who buy them; such as when Barry is confronted by souless monsters who suck the life out of brand names, Marketors.  There's also a bit later on when Lord Valumart reveals his plans to suck the imagination out of children by forcing an unending stream of Trotter movies onto them.  Gerber does make some satirical references to Rowling's books, however, and generally they too are quite astute (like the bit where it says that sneetch/snitch element of Quiddit/Quidditch defeats the object of the rest of the game, but offers the author the opportunity to end the scene quickly with the hero gaining instant renown).  The downsides of the book are the endless scatalogical 'humour' and the odd effect having and American write for a British audience has.  What I mean by this is that Gerber seems to be trying to write in British terms (using words like 'knickers' or 'quid') but often Americanisms slip out (with Lon asking for 'bucks' and the leaves dropping off the trees in 'fall').  This odd mixture of cross-channel coloquialisms makes the book slightly hard to read in an equally hard to define sort of way.
4 out of 5
'The Hogwash School for Wizards was the most famous school in the wizarding world, and Barry Trotter was its most famous student.'
Barry Trotter And The Unnecessary Sequel
The second Barry Trotter book, of which the title tells you everything you need to know.  Barry and Ermine return to Hogwash in their thirties for a reunion, taking their newly enrolled and totally unmagical son Nigel with them.  This book is mildly amusing, but it falls into the trap that the other two books of the series avoided, attempting to do a comedy rewrite of the Harry Potter stories.  There's a mystery to be solved at Hogwash so Barry causes mayhem and Ermine goes to the library.  The satirisations here are too simplistic and obvious to be truly witty and the book as a whole lacks the subtle digs at Rowling's works that were so astute in the first and third books.  Worth reading to get the background to '...The Dead Horse' but as a whole, fairly disappointing.
3 out of 5
'Barry Trotter had always had awful birthdays.'
Barry Trotter And The Dead Horse
The third Barry Trotter book, which leads me quickly to my biggest gripe about it.  I own the three books and read this one first as the cover assured me that it was a prequel and therefore it wasn't necessary to have read the other two.  Lying bastards.  The book is actually a sequel, but in which Barry's past is recounted through hypnotic regression and the annoyance of not having started at the beginning of the story made the entire book seem less enjoyable.  But, onto the actual story, which certainly surprised me.  I was expecting another fantasy spoof in which the original story is rehashed satirically, with some silly names chucked in, and a few crude jokes.  This book does contain all of that, of course, but Gerber actually manages to write an interesting story of his own.  That story involves a 15 year old Barry facing a magical ban that prevents him from attempting to have sex with the female students of Hogwash.  To get around the ban Barry begins awkwardly dating a Muddle girl, but inadvertantly kills her after their first kiss.  Years in the future Barry realises that he must rescue the girl from the afterlife in order to resume his adult life with his wife Ermine.  There are plenty of amusing Harry Potter references twisted to suit Barry's world, such as the Buggering Birch and Lord Valumart's constantly unsuccessful attempts to kill Barry (think Kato from the Pink Panther movies).  Perhaps Gerber's greatest achievement is to take J. K. Rowling's excellent grasp of teenage angst and then focus on the one aspect that she left out, the most important thing to a teenage boy... sex!  A funny book with a good storyline that could potentially stand alone, without the Harry Potter element to back it up.  Certainly not one for the kiddies though as it's all adult humour.
4 out of 5
'Trivet Row shimmered in the summer heat.'
The Chronicles Of Blarnia
With the recent explosion of fantasy and sci-fi parodies, it was inevitable that one would cash in on the arrival of the first 'Chronicles of Narnia' movie.  For the most part this book is run of the mill parody, twisting name sounds (the Wide Witch and Asthma), retelling the story with a cynical twist and constantly referencing the author's desire to make money.  As you may guess, I was pretty underwhelmed by this offering.  The worst thing about it is that unlike the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter parodies available, the author of this one isn't affectionately mocking the original author's idiosyncracies.  Reading Gerber's text you get the overwhelming impression that he actually hates 'The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe' and, for that matter, C. S. Lewis' entire writing style.  So, if you're a fan of the original story, you'll resent this open attack against it, but if you read the original story and didn't like it, then perhaps this is the book for you.  There were two saving graces in this book.  The first is the portrayal of the four children; the public-schoolboyish and violent Pete, the clever but undyingly boring Sue, the demented and dillusional Loo and, best of all, Ed, who is portrayed not as a selfish traitor, but rather an ambitious and avaricious individual just making the best of a bad situation.  The other thing I liked was Asthma's exasperation at the way in which his followers ignore all of his teachings in order to either fight with each other over the meaning of those teachings or their desire to violently punish those seen as Asthma's enemies.  It is this clever satrisation of the history of Christianity that gained the book it's third point out of five.
3 out of 5
'Once there were four children named Pete, Sue, Ed and Loo, and this story is about something that happened to them when their parents sold them for medical experiments.'

If you liked Gerber:

Then you might like other fantasy spoofs such as 'Bored Of The Rings' by Henry N. Beard & Douglas C. Kenney or 'The Soddit' and 'The Sellamillion', both by Adam Roberts (aka A.R.R.R Roberts)

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