In Your Dreams and Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard, by Tom Holt

I have a knack for finding the middle books of a series, but I very rarely manage to find the first book in the series. And I have again managed to start a series with the second book. I thought I found the first book--but no. I picked up the second and third books of the series. Tcha.

Both In Your Dreams and Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard take place in a company that employs wizards, fairies, goblins, and dragon-slaying heroes. And the stories are centered around a character who, while he has magical abilities, is generally clueless and annoyed by all the wierdness around him.

The plots are unbelievable and you can't describe them unless you take the length of a book to do it. But I will say that, especially in Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard, that it sometimes seemed like the plot went totally off the rails and into the deep blue absurd. I could follow it, but it really seemed that the book would have made a lot more sense if I had been imbibing a controlled substance. So, if you're looking for a totally off the wall book, these books are perfect for you. I have rarely seen a more imaginative flight of fancy that didn't collapse under the weight of its own weirdness.


Dead Funny, by Tom Holt

I find it hard to locate books that can make me laugh out loud, or books that have the demented, absurd plots that I enjoy and that actually work. Because I have this problem, I figure that other people have it to. So, while you're waiting for the next Christopher Moore,Terry Pratchett, or Janet Evanovich book to come out, give Tom Holt a try. I've read four of his books so far and there hasn't been a one that hasn't made me almost snort a beverage out of my nose yet. :)

Dead Funny contains two full novels, Flying Dutch and Faust Among Equals. Flying Dutch takes the story of the Flying Dutchman, adds nuclear power, alchemy, insurance, and accounting and creates a delightfully weird book. Faust Among Equals is, if you can believe it, even weirder. Basically, Faust escapes from Hell, hooks back up with Helen of Troy, wreckes hilariously warped revenge on his captors. And it all comes to a close in a themepark in Hell designed by Hieronymous Bosch.

As an added bonus for me, Holt has a very English way of writing that is a joy to read, with wacky metaphors, inventive turns of phrase, and uproariously funny understatements. Fun, fun, fun. Plus, he has a huge list of titles already written, so I don't think I'm going to run out of reading material any time soon.

Here's Holt's web site. Enjoy.


Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

This week I also finished reading my first Octavia Butler book. Now that I've read her, I kind of wonder that it took me so long to read her. I picked up her books after I read her obituary in the New York Times, and the descriptions of the topics she discusses in her books made me want to go out right then and pick up one of her books.

Unfortunately, my local public library didn't carry any of her books. Fledgling was the first title I recommended to the library that came in.

Fledgling, I think, is Ms. Butler's last book. It's a vampire novel, but it does some really interesting things to the myth. First, it disregards most of the vampire myth and starts out fresh. Butler uses the idea of vampires genetically engineering themselves so that they can go out during the day as a platform to talk about racism and what it means to be a part of two different species and races at the same time.

This book doesn't have a lot of the action that most people have come to expect from their contemporary fantasies, but it was wonderful to explore deep themes through the usually frivolous vampire story.