Reposting Just ‘Cuz: Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth by John Moe

I’ve been poking away at a couple of posts about new books for a few days, and am just not getting far enough to post with them, and it’s time for me to fire up the CPAP, so we’re doing some more reruns this week with a couple of posts from 5 years ago this week. I’d actually forgotten about this one, and am now annoyed with myself.

Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture CorrespondencesDear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences

by John Moe

ebook, 288 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Three Rivers Press
Read: August 14, 2014

This is an incredibly amusing collection of pop culture-based humor pieces — I’m tempted to call them columns, but that’s not exactly it.

So these are correspondence (in various forms) associated with gems from Pop Culture — the titular notes from Darth Vader to his son; the entire list of Jay Z’s 99 problems (4. Don’t really enjoy rap music; 55. Shamrock Shake only available once a year.; 84. Worry someone will discover that I’m secretly a member of Bon Iver.); internal e-mails when E.T.’s shipmates discover he was left behind; and so on. I cracked up a lot. I made my wife read bits and pieces, but I resisted reading portions/the entire book aloud. Some of the pieces I wanted to read aloud included: The editorial notes on Guns ‘n Roses “Sweet Child of Mine” (“Redundant. You either have a memory or you’re reminded of something. You’re not reminded of a memory. Your heavy-metal supporters won’t stand for such writing”); a note from the bar manager to Billy “The Piano Man” Joel; the development of the lyrics to the “Batman” show theme; Dora the Explorer’s mother’s letter to CPS (“I know that imaginary friends are a perfectly normal part of childhood, but this was different. Dora would speak to an entire group of people, almost like an audience. And she would demand things of them: “Say map! Say map!’ It was like super-bossy, group-oriented schizophrenia”); a list of changes the Hotel California instituted after being visited by Don Henley (“Acquire steelier knives and/or less resolute beast”).

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but your appreciation of a piece will be directly correlated to your appreciation of the pop culture basis. For example, I don’t like The Walking Dead (yeah, I’m the one guy in the U.S.), so Message Board posts by the Walkers didn’t do anything for me, ditto for the Engineer’s Notes from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” sessions. But I’m willing to bet that fans of either would get a few chuckles.

There are several pieces (perhaps the majority?) that go on too long — maybe two that aren’t long enough. But even with those that do wear out the joke, carry on, More makes persistence worth it.

My only warning is — do not try to read this cover to cover. Read a piece or two. Put the book down. Come back in a day or so. More than that and you’ll stop chuckling, maybe even build up an intolerance. Just sip at this one, no chugging.

I enjoyed it — I laughed, I chuckled, I grinned, I wished I’d thought of that joke first — this is a great coffee table kind of book. I’d buy another volume or three of this just to have around. Give it a shot.

Note:I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. Which was generous and cool of them, but didn’t impact what I said about the book.

—–

3 Stars

Advertisements

A Few Quick Questions With…Richard Steele

So, yeah, Richard Steele’s book wasn’t my kind of thing, but like I said, Steele’s been great throughout. I appreciate his answers here and it helps me get what he was going for. I know there are people out there who’ll dig his stuff, and hope they find it.

I’ve never been given a warning before from an author after agreeing to read their book—what was behind that? Would you warn all your readers?
                     I’d probably best describe this decision as “Debut Author Jitters”.

I wrote Time Travel + Brain Stealing… by the seat of my pants (a big no-no for many writers), with almost no outlining and all spontaneity. It was quite a ride! Because of this, I labeled it’s genre Dark Humor from what I subjectively believed it to be, rather than the roller coaster of insanity it turned out to be.

It was only until I received my first review from a reader who was taken aback by the gore and vulgarity that I realized I may have misplaced the genre of my book, and therefore the pending reviewers who were currently reading it in good faith were also under that same false impression.

I researched and researched and found its home in Bizarro Fiction, albeit a rather vanilla version when compared to others, and felt it was my duty as an Author to let those who dedicated their time voluntarily to read my book know there was a potential for some to be offended by my writing and give them an opportunity to decide if this new genre was best suited to their reading taste.

Would I warn everyone now? No, I believe my honest blurb and preface should suffice. It was more time, place and circumstance. With my previous warning and I’ve learnt very quickly that my audience is out there, but so too are my critics and I can’t control that if I want to write how I want to write.

I’ve not come across anything that describes itself as “Bizarro Fiction,” for the myself and the rest of the uninitiated, could you describe that genre?
                     Join the club! It is a great genre I literally stumbled into, and I’m sure those who are fanatic Bizarro readers may even argue that my book is too vanilla for it. However, I would deem Bizarro to be that line you cross in Dark Humor where you incorporate gore, over the top violence, toilet humor and gross-out comedy with a blend of satire and wit.

It goes beyond what the average person would deem comfortable and forces them to laugh or contemplate laughing at situations they ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                     I did what a lot of first time foolish authors do and sent it to the big publishers, thinking I cracked a niche and had the perfect new formula.

A few nice rejections later and a small press independent publisher in Tenth Street Press found me and loved the boundaries I was pushing. They gave me a chance I believe I may have never found elsewhere to write pure and free.

I actually drafted this book as a set of small short stories when I was twelve, albeit a diluted and less Bizarro-esque version. I always remembered that feeling of making others laugh or cry or run away in horror at my writing and although I have a serious full-time occupation, that urge to write bizarre comedy never left me and only grew stronger the older I got.

In saying that, I’m still relatively young to publish (unless you believe my Author Bio then I’m almost retired), and I’m hoping this is the first of many books.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                     Ah, well I can’t go past the late and great Leslie Nielsen who whilst he wasn’t an author, his style of satire and slap-stick comedy in the likes of ‘The Naked Gun’, ‘Spy Hard’ and my favorite ‘Wrongfully Accused’ have stuck with me for decades.

I always wanted to take what they could do on screen, that randomness and insanity but with such strict seriousness and splash it onto paper.

As far as other authors go, I can’t go past Andy Griffiths and his Bum Trilogy books, such as ‘Zombie Bums from Uranus’. Whilst written for a younger audience than mine, his ability to take the ridiculous and toilet humor and make it serious and funny at the same time was a large influence.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                     It may be older than 5 years but I can’t go past ‘Hot Rod’. That was absolute genius. Along with others (older also, sorry) like ‘Kung Pow: Enter the Fist’ and ‘Black Dynamite’. It’s again due to the random nature of their satirical and slap-stick humor that sometimes makes me think if they syphoned my thoughts while I slept.
What’s next for Richard Steele, author?
                     I’ve planned out 3 more books to the Good Times series, all standalone with a very minor entanglement between them. These will be splices of different genres each, just like ‘Time Travel + Brain Stealing…’ is Science Fiction and Horror etc, so the humor in each pulls on different elements from the differing genres.
However, a recent reviewee challenged me to write serious books instead and put my talent to good use. And to that I say touché!
I also have a trilogy of Science Fiction Adventure underway also aimed at Middle Grade level, a re-invented ‘Redwall’ of sorts. Under a different name of course…can you imagine parents and priests checking my name to see if my writing is appropriate? Ha!
I’ll wait to see if my legions of non-existent Bizarro fans enjoy my debut novella first before I dive back into that cesspool style of writing. So until then, Richard Steele salutes you.
Thanks for your time! I hope Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times finds its audience and that you have plenty of success with the book.

Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times by Richard Steele is a Thing that I Read

Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good TimesTime Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

by Richard Steele
Kindle Edition, 141 pg.
Tenth Street Press, 2019
Read: July 15, 2019

A few weeks back, I received a request to read/review this book, this is what Steele entered under “Tell me about the book”:

Time Travel + Brain stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

Following the death of his parents, who died in a cliché’ [sic] and completely unimportant way, young Joe Brown is about to find out that living in a town conveniently named Doomsville, does have its draw backs [sic].

For reasons unknown, Joe now must face the demonic creations of a stereotypically bad villain known only as ‘The Master’, who has a penchant for pickled brains and poor puns.

Dumpsters of Doom, Toasters of Terror and the occasional Cheese Sandwich of Carnage all set out to hunt poor Joe and retrieve his brain to fulfil The Master’s destiny.

With the help of his best friend, a disturbingly gross Godmother and some random stalker he just met, Joe Brown is about to learn that what’s between his gunk ridden ears could be the key to saving the world and time itself.

Come and embark on an epic mind-bending, time-travelling quest full of confusing sub-plots, poorly constructed characters, science fiction that only a Flat Earther would believe, and every inappropriate joke you’ve ever thought of but couldn’t say out loud at your Grandmother’s funeral.

I take full responsibility for not reading that as closely as I should have. For example, that first line isn’t a tag line, or a quick synopsis as I assumed. That’s the title. I’ll tell you now if I’d realized that I would’ve stopped reading there. But no, I took it as a tag line and moved on. I ignored the inability to correctly use accent marks on “cliché” (that sounds persnickety, but there’s a pretty high correlation to typo-ridden submissions and bad books in my experience). This seemed just goofy enough that it might be a good way to spend a day or so, I could use some light-hearted fun.

I didn’t realize that “disturbingly gross”, “poorly constructed characters,” “inappropriate”, and “stereotypically bad” weren’t modest descriptions, but selling points in Steele’s mind. Then when he sent me the file, he ended it with, “Good luck, you’re a brave soul indeed…” This should’ve been a warning sign. I took it to be a little self-deprecating humor. Now I don’t think that’s the case, he really meant that this is a book not-for-the-faint-of-heart.

Now, throughout the process, Steele has been a pleasure to work with, and very accommodating—I want to be clear that this isn’t personal. It’s all about my reaction to his novella, not him.

The novella itself? “Self-indulgent twaddle” shows up in my notes at one point, and I think that pretty well sums it up. Juvenile. Vulgar (and not in an interesting way). Enough scatological humor to make a 13-year-old boy say, “Stop!” The plot seems unnecessarily convoluted, yet pretty simple. Although, plot isn’t what this novella’s about—it’s about the telling. They way that Steele tells the story, the voice, the manner, the attitude. That’s the star of the story.

And it didn’t work for me. At all. I couldn’t connect with the story, the characters, the narrator, the style, the voice, the vocabulary. Anything.

Steele clearly worked hard. You could feel on every page the effort to shock, disgust, and be stranger than he had been previously. Mark Leyner can do that kind of thing and make it seem interesting, effortless, engaging and fun. Steele just makes me want to find a new hobby.

The very chatty and fourth-wall ignoring narrator warns in the third paragraph of the Prologue,

Things are going to get stranger than having your sister accidently [sic] kiss you at a county fair kissing booth, only for her to line up for seconds.

Right there, I should’ve stopped and called it a day. Instead, I rolled my eyes and plowed on, little realizing that was going to be the high-point of the book’s figurative language.

I’ve already cited everything you need to know about the plot and characters in the first citation. I’m just going to leave it there…I try to find something positive to say about every book. But I just can’t here beyond saying that I can tell that Steele put a lot of effort into this. I just don’t understand why anyone would.

Your mileage may vary, obviously. If you find something redeeming/entertaining about this novella? Good on you. I’m curious about what you liked, but I won’t argue with you. But there’s just no way I can recommend this to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my opinion and this post. Clearly, this didn’t keep me from speaking my mind.

—–

2 Stars

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson: Heartfelt, Amusing, Occasionally Inspirational and/or Hilarious.

Riding the ElephantRiding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations

by Craig Ferguson
Hardcover, 266 pg.
Blue Rider Press, 2019
Read: July 1 – 18, 2019

The following year, 2009, I actually sang ”Sweet Caroline” along with Neil Diamond on stage—he put his hand on my shoulder! ”Reachin’ out. . . touchin’ me. . . touchin’ you . . .,” which means, no matter what you may achieve in your life, I’ll always be that little bit more awesome than you.

Early on, Ferguson talks about his approach to the writing of this bookafter years of writing the monologue-type things he started his talk show with (I call them type, because they’re not like your standard late night monologue), he’s continued to think in those terms, he finds it natural to write in. So, he wrote a few of those looking back on his past. Prestoa new memoir.

The timeline jumps around a lot, so there’s no real linear storyline. But there are trends, if you’re looking for them. More than that, there are themessobriety, family, and personal growth would be at the top of the list.

There are some wonderfully-written passages, not enough for my tastebut it’s not that kind of book, so those moments shine. Mostly, it’s a showcase for Ferguson as story-teller. And he’s a good one: whether it’s about a fishing trip, a vacation in Japan, performing somewhere, teenage romance (unrequited, I should add) or meeting his wife (for example) — you get caught up in the tale. Maybe the lessons he takes from the story or the point he was trying to raise, aren’t quite as good as the story itself, but frequently it is.

I could read the account of his learning to fly a couple of times a year and find it amusing and inspiring each time. I loved his discussion about his tattoos, tooit made me wish I had a session lined up.

One of the most prominent themes (maybe the most) is sobriety and his alcoholism. As you’d expect, Ferguson balances the harsh truths about both with his signature wit.

The problem with trying to hide active alcoholism from someone you live with is one of balance. You have to drink because you’re an alcoholic, but you don’t want to appear too drunk because then the poor unfortunate that is supposedly in a relationship with you might insist on you getting help. That’s the last fucking thing you want because every drinking alcoholic knows ”getting help” means stopping drinking, and that is unthinkable. Keeping your shit together is a tightrope act and is only halfway possible with luck, good timing, and cocaine. Even then it doesn’t always work.

Let’s be honest, it hardly ever works.

It never works.

I do think I would’ve enjoyed this more if I’d listened to the audiobookalas, it wasn’t available at my library. I think I’d have responded better to Ferguson’s voice telling me the stories, not reading them with frequent approximations of his voice in my head. But it was nice enougha few chuckles, some really well-written passages, some good insight into Ferguson. It wasn’t spectacular, as I’d hopedbut it was good. I’m glad I read it, and I bet if you like Ferguson to any extent, you’ll enjoy reading this, too.

—–

3 Stars

2019 Library Love ChallengeHumor Reading Challenge 2019

✔ A memoir or biography of a favorite celebrity.
✔ A book written by a comedian.

Don’t Panic by Neil Gaiman, David K. Dickson and MJ Simpson: An Indispensable Guide to Douglas Adams and his Work

I’d intended to get this up and ready for Towel Day last week — but, obviously, I failed. Schemes once again, Gang aft a-gley. It’s pretty fitting, really that this is late.

Don't PanicDon’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Third Edition)

by Neil Gaiman; Additional Material by David K. Dickson & MJ Simpson
Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (related)

Hardcover, 207 pg.
Titan Books, 2003
Read: May 22 – 23, 2019

          
The idea in question bubbled into Douglas Adams’s mind quite spontaneously, in a field in Innsbruck. He later denied any personal memory of it having happened. But it’s the story he told, and, if there can be such a thing, it’s the beginning. If you have to take a flag reading THE STORY STARTS HERE and stick it into the story, then there is no other place to put it.

It was 1971, and the eighteen year-old Douglas Adams was hitch-hiking his way across Europe with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europethat he had stolen (he hadn’t bothered ‘borrowing’ a copy of Europe on $5 a Day, he didn’t have that kind of money).

He was drunk. He was poverty-stricken. He was too poor to afford a room at a youth hostel (the entire story is told at length in his introduction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts in England, and The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy in the US) and he wound up, at the end of a harrowing day, flat on his back in a field in Innsbruck, staring up at the stars. “Somebody,” he thought, “somebody really ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

He forgot about the idea shortly thereafter.

Five years later, while he was struggling to think of a legitimate reason for an alien to visit Earth, the phrase returned to him. The rest is history, and will be told in this book.

I distinctly remember purchasing the first edition of Don’t Panic from BookPeople of Moscow in the fall of 1991 — I remember being blown away by the idea that someone would write a book about Douglas Adams’ work. I had no idea who this Neil Gaiman fellow was, but I enjoyed his writing and loved the book he wrote — and read it several times. It was a long time (over 2 decades) before I thought of him as anything but “that guy who wrote the Hitchhiker’s book.” The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy had been a favorite of mine for years by that point, and getting to look behind the scenes of it was like catnip.

This is the third edition, and as is noted by Gaiman in the Forward, it “has been updated and expanded twice.” The completist in me would like to find a second edition to read the original 3 chapters added by David K. Dickson in 1993, but the important change was in 2002, when “MJ Simpson wrote chapters 27-30, and overhauled the entire text.” If you ask me, Gaiman’s name should be in the smaller print and Simpson’s should be the tall letters on the cover — but no publisher is that stupid, if you get the chance to claim that Neil Gaiman wrote a book, you run with it. Overhauled is a kind way of putting it — there’s little of the original book that I recognize (I’m going by memory only, not a side by side comparison). This is not a complaint, because Simpson’s version of the book is just as good as the original, it’s just not the original.

This is a little more than the story of The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, but it’s certainly not a biography of Adams — maybe you could call it a professional biography. Or a biography of Adams the creator, which only touches upon the rest of his life as needed. Yes there are brief looks at his childhood, schooling, etc. But it primarily focuses on his writing, acting, producing and whatnot as the things that led to that revolutionary BBC Radio series and what happened afterward. Maybe you could think of it as the story of a man’s lifelong battle to meet a deadline and the lengths those around him would go to help him not miss it too much.

Once we get to the Radio series, it follows the The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy through each incarnation and expansion — talking about the problems getting it produced (in whatever medium we’re talking about — books, TV show, movie, stage show) and the content. Then the book discusses other Adams projects — Dirk Gently books, The Last Chance to See, his computer work, and other things like that.

It’s told with a lot of cheek, humor, and snark — some of the best footnotes and appendices ever. It’s not the work of a slavish fanboy (or team of them) — there are critical moments talking about problems with some of the books (some of the critiques are valid, others might be valid, but I demur). But it’s never not told with affection for the man or his work.

Don’t Panic is a must for die-hard fans — and can be read for a lot of pleasure by casual fans of the author or his work. I can almost promise that whatever your level of devotion to or appreciation of Adams/his work, it’ll increase after reading this. Any edition of this book should do — but this third edition is an achievement all to itself. Imagine someone being able to say, “I improved on Gaiman’s final draft.”

I loved it, I will return to this to read as well as to consult for future things I write about Adams, and recommend it without hesitation.

—–

5 Stars

Humor Reading Challenge 2019

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Robot, Take the Wheel by Jason Torchinsky

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Spotlight Tour for Robot, Take the Wheel by Jason Torchinsky. I jumped at the chance when asked if I’d participate in this because: 1. Content I didn’t have to work for at all; 2. It looks like a fun book that I’d like to help get eyeballs on; 3. How often to I get asked to do anything with a non-fiction book?; and 4. Check out the cover — that’s just awesome.

Read the post, enter the giveaway — or don’t wait for fortune to smile on you, go buy the thing!

Book Details:

Book Title: Robot, Take the Wheel: The Road to Autonomous Cars and the Lost Art of Driving by Jason Torchinsky
Publisher: Apollo Publishers
Category: Adult Non-Fiction
Release date: May 7, 2019
Format: Ebook/Hardcover
Length: 207 pages
Content Rating: PG (this book is accessible to everyone)

Book Blurb:

From the witty senior editor of Jalopnik, Gizmodo Media’s acclaimed website devoted to cars, technology, and more, comes a revealing, savvy, and humorous look at self-driving cars.

Self-driving cars sound fantastical and futuristic and yet they’ll soon be on every street in America. Whether it’s Tesla’s Autopilot, Google’s Waymo, Mercedes’s Distronic, or Uber’s 24,000 modified Volvos, companies across industries and throughout the world are developing autonomous cars. Even Apple, not to be outdone, is rumored to be creating its own technology too.

In Robot, Take the Wheel, Jason Torchinsky explores the state of the automotive industry. Through wit and wisdom, he explains why autonomous cars are being made and what the future of automated cars is. Torchinsky encourages us to consider autonomous cars as an entirely new machine, something beyond cars as we understand them today. He considers how we’ll get along with these robots that will take over our cars’ jobs, what they will look like, what sorts of jobs they may do, what we can expect of them, how they should act, ethically, how we can have fun with them, and how we can make sure there’s still a place for those of us who love to drive with manual or automatic transmission.

This unique and highly readable volume is brimming with industry insider information and destined to be a conversation starter. It’s a must-have for car lovers, technology geeks, and everyone who wants to know what’s on the road ahead.

Purchase Links for Robot, Take the Wheel:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound ~ Book Depository

About Jason Torchinsky:

Jason TorchinskyJASON TORCHINSKY is senior editor of Jalopnik, a website devoted to news and opinions about all things automotive. As a writer and artist, he is known for his articles, artworks, talks, and videos about cars, technology, and culture. He has raced cars, wrecked cars, and driven possibly one of the most dangerous cars ever made with the King of Cars on the Emmy-winning Jay Leno’s Garage. He lives in North Carolina.

Connect with the author: Twitter

GIVEAWAY:

Win a print copy of Robot, Take the Wheel (5 winners / open to USA only)
(ends May 31, 2019)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

(if the Rafflecopter script isn’t working, just click here — it’s not as pretty, but it works)

Pub Day Repost: No Country for Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne is a very foine booke that surpässes the original while showing full respect to the umlaut

I’ve tweaked and retweaked this to the point that I can’t read it any more. Hope it’s mostly coherent.

No Country for Old GnomesNo Country for Old Gnomes

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Series: The Tales of Pell, Book #2

eARC, 352 pg.
Del Rey, 2019
Read: March 9 – 12, 2019

As much as I loved 2018’s Kill the Farm Boy — and talked about it everywhere and repeatedly — I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to pick up the sequel. There’s no way it would be as good, the humor would be a little stale, and the whole approach wouldn’t seem as novel. Still, I knew curiosity would get the better of me — and it’d still have its moments. Also, I’m not at the point where I can live in a world with a Kevin Hearne book in print that I haven’t read.

I was so, so wrong. Having established their off-kilter world, strong voice, and approach to the stories of Pell, Dawson and Hearne have come back to play in it. The result is superior in every way that I can think of. I lost track of how many times I said to myself while reading something along the lines of, “how did they improve things this much?”

So this book happens in different corner of the kingdom than Farm Boy did. The Skylar is a choice piece of the land that is home to two diminutive races — halflings and gnomes. Gnomes want to live in their nice little homes, tinker with their little projects and inventions, and wear brightly colored cardigans (well, there was one gnome who wanted to wear a black cardigan, but let’s leave that aside for now). The halflings have found their government hijacked by criminals and those particular halflings are waging a war of sorts on the gnomes, driving them from their homes for unknown reasons. Driven by desperation, two of these displaced gnomes are part of our questing party here. A halfling — committed to (some may say obsessed with) the law that is being ignored by his people is another member of the party.

These three join themselves to an ovitaur named Agape — an ovitaur is like a faun, but is humanoid with sheep characteristics (feet, legs, ears, etc). She’s the last of a long family line serving as teh guardians of a rare treasure, and needs guidance. A gryphon, named Gerd, outcast from his people has been accompanying the halfling for some time, but is devoted to protecting Agape now. The last member of the party is a dwarf named Båggi Biins. Båggi is on his Meadschpringå — a time when young dwarves leave their homes to purge the violence from themselves so they can return to their homes to pursue an ascetic life of creativity. He joins the others certain that journeying with them, protecting them along their way will provide all the outlet required to use his violence in a noble cause.

Their quest? To go to the Great Library, where the founding documents of the gnomeric and halfling civilizations are located — which should prove invaluable to re-establish the peace and help the two societies get along. Agape should find resources to direct her in her guardianship, and hopefully provide Gerd with the proof that he broke no laws of the gryphons.

The fact that most people on Pell consider the Great Library to be a myth shouldn’t be taken as an argument against this quest. What better place than a possibly mythical library to provide the answers they seek?

While these characters are on their quest, working for peace — the king and his advisor are trying to solve the problems between the halflings and gnomes in a more direct approach. We also see (briefly in most cases) other characters from Farm Boy. We see just enough to know how things are going for them some months later — and on the whole, it’s just as you’d hoped/expected it to be for them. It is not essential to have read the previous volume to get 95% of this book. It’s safe to hand this one off to family, friends and coworkers who are wondering what you’re cackling about without making them do homework first.

Along the way, these characters meet a cult of cabbage worshipers, who have the ability to read prophecies in the vegetables; some very frightening mermaids (that look nothing like anything anyone expects); a very Tom Bombadil-esque character (and a few other Tolkien-inspired jokes). As in Farm Boy, the authors manage to use these ideas as sources of comedy and to propel the plot along in meaningful ways. Similarly, they use racial and personal characteristics of the characters to play with, play against and mock genre standards. But almost none of the characters are mere jokes, they’re well-developed characters that happen to be able to comedic. This is not an easy balance to achieve — and Hearne and Dawson are almost flawless on this front.

For example, gryphons are convinced that they perceive greater nuance and details in colors, sounds, tastes and the like and adjust their pronunciation of words via capital letters, umlauts and extra syllables. Gerd’s dialogue is littered with these. It starts off as a joke that just won’t stop, and instead of it getting tired or annoying (which I assumed it would), it becomes just part of the way that Gerd talks. His own particular dialect, that occasionally will strike you as amusing — maybe even just funny occasionally. I wouldn’t say it’s because the authors show restraint with it, employing it just when needed to keep it funny. Quite the reverse, they seemingly take the approach of drowning you in the joke, figuring that it’ll be funny often enough to justify it.

If you’re like me, you have a tendency to skip chapter titles. Doing so with The Tales of Pell would be a mistake. The titles are long, fitting, and insanely goofy. The only thing better are the chapter epigraphs I imagine the drafts going back and forth between the authors, each trying to top the other with the next chapter title/epigraph. And generally succeeding.

These books are noted (as I’ve focused on) for their comedy — as is right, because they are funny. But as anyone who’s read other works by Dawson and Hearne know, they’re about a lot more than comedy. The battle scenes are exciting. The emotional themes and reactions are genuine and unforced. And tragedy hits hard. It’s easy to forget in the middle of inspiring moments or humorous aftermaths of battle that these kind of novels involve death and other forms of loss — and when you do forget, you are open to getting your heart punched.

In case I haven’t made it clear here, Dawson and Hearne knocked it out of the park here. I thought Kill the Farm Boy was outstanding, and No Country for Old Gnomes surpassed it on every front. I don’t expect that the third volume of The Tales of Pell will continue this trend — but I’m more than open to being proven wrong next year. But for 2019? I’m just going to revel in the goodness — the laughs, the pathos, the excitement — brought by this adventure and the wonderful cast of characters. Get your hands on this one.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this, I really appreciate it.

—–

4 1/2 Stars