The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
Just finished reading The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore and before I even start this review will say I LOVED this book. Really, really, LOVED IT.
– Start interlude –
Now, I will begin by saying this was a revelation and a damned fine surprise for me and I’ll tell you why. The story is a combination of two Shakespeare stories and an Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve only read one of Shakespeare’s plays (stop gawping it’s not attractive) and I’ve read a few Poe but not this particular one. I imagined that this would be filled with all sorts of ‘in jokes’ that would go well above my head (and not because I’m short in stature although I am and don’t mind admitting it). Now, I’m sure there were lots of things here that did, in fact, go over my head – that other people would really enjoy – alas, I cannot tell you about those because they were lost on me, but I certainly didn’t come away from this thinking it had been difficult to grasp. Also, the book is described as a comedy. I know this sounds crazy but I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book before that was described as a comedy. I’ve read books that had plenty of comedy in them as a matter of course but never knowingly picked one for that reason. I’ve probably even read a few that were funny although not intentionally so. That’s not to say I don’t like to laugh, in fact this book is a massive testament to the fact that I do like to laugh – quite a lot – on public transport, in the office, when I’m actually reading with a torch and supposed to be asleep and waking other people in the house with my raucous snorting (can you actually snort raucously???).
– Interlude over –
To the book. The inspirations: Othello, The Merchant of Venice and The Cask of Amontillado. The leading man: Pocket – the Fool. The rest of the cast decidedly Shakesperian. The setting: Venice. With a wickedly delicious sense of humour, dry wit, inventive cursing and fantastic plotting. I think this is decidedly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I read it in a leap and a bound, literally two days and couldn’t put it down.
Pocket starts the story in a spot of bother. He’s been taken captive and imprisoned. Shackled to the walls of his prison, in the inky darkness he hears the wretched screams of a man in the final throes of life, followed by something slithering around the basement in which he is trapped! Sounds pretty bleak for Pocket – fear not, he is after all the main protagonist and this would be a rather short story if he found himself eaten (especially as these are the opening chapters.)
I’m really not going to give away the plot and I’m certainly not going to give away what sort of creature is lurking beneath the dark waters of Venice. Suffice to say that this is a great story that surpassed my expectations. I went into this with a semi belligerent feeling of ‘not really my thing’ and came out of it thinking ‘where can I get more of this!’ So, think Shakespeare, written in a slightly more modern (and accessible) style, with a few ‘methinks’ scattered throughout. Think dark, horrible and sometimes a bit creepy. Think plots within plots and more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing. Now, imagine laughing out loud at the most inopportune moments and almost clapping your hands in delight at the wit (because clapping your hands whilst reading a book is always convenient). Then, you have it in a nutshell.
I don’t know whether it comes across here but I really enjoyed this. I would have no hesitation in recommending it. It’s a great story, characters that you will know (even if you didn’t know that you knew them!), ghosts, conspiracy and monsters plus tears of laughter. I kid you not. Grab a hanky.
I will not say more because to do so would be to gild the lily or some such.
I received a copy via the publisher (and I’m damned pleased that I did) and the above is my own opinion. Just read it already!
I’m submitting this as part of my 100 books a year challenge and also under the heading of ‘fantasy’ for Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time event.