Audiobook Review: The Good, The Bad and The Smug by Tom Holt
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Fantasy, Humor
Series: Book 4 of YouSpace
Publisher: Hachette Audio, Orbit (7/28/15)
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Narrator: Ray Sawyer | Length: 12 hrs 59 min
As a fantasy reader, not ever having read K. J. Parker has always been one of my private shames. But hey, now that we know he’s Tom Holt, does this count? Given how the books he writes under the two different names are apparently so completely different, I’m guessing probably not, huh? Oh well, can’t blame a girl for trying, right?
I do admit though, that was one impetus that led me to try this book. Not knowing what I was in for, and not even being aware that The Good, the Bad and the Smug is actually the fourth novel in a series, I actually ended up pleasantly surprised and very impressed. Taking place in Holt’s YouSpace universe, this book can indeed be read as a stand-alone, and not being familiar with the previous books did not impede my personal enjoyment in any way.
Working on the principle of multiple universes, this particular tale lands us in a fantasy world completely with elves, dwarves, and even goblins – a rare treat. Horrible, evil things they are though, those goblins, but their king Mordak is hoping to revitalize things with a rebranding. Of course, the first order of business is to make sure the media is in your pocket, which means buying up all the newspapers that say bad things about you. Efluviel is an elf journalist who promptly loses her job thanks to Mordak’s shenanigans, but when she is subsequently offered a position as the goblin king’s new assistant, how could she say no? Everyone’s gotta eat, after all.
Meanwhile, deep in the dark forest lives a little man, offering all the human princes of the land his services to spin straw into gold in exchange for their first born children. As gold floods the market and the price of straw skyrockets, this sudden economic turmoil is just yet another thorn in King Mordak’s side. Humans are on the up and up, and that simply won’t do at all. Time to figure out what’s going on.
Tom Holt’s style has been compared to Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett, and indeed it seems he’s known for his satirical takes on various fictional themes, often in humorous and over-the-top ways. This most definitely describes The Good, The Bad and the Smug which admittedly is not my usual type of read, but I had a great time with it regardless. Humor is so subjective, and I almost always approach books like this with no small amount of skepticism and trepidation. One might even say I expect to be disappointed. The fact that this book defied my cynicism and ended up endearing itself to me is a pretty big deal. In truth, it’s probably more ridiculous than I would prefer, but I did laugh a lot. That’s something. That’s huge.
Audiobook comments: The audiobook for The Good, The Bad, and the Smug was truly excellent, giving me no cause to regret my decision to listen to this instead of reading the print. It also prompted me to look up narrator Ray Sawyer to see what other books he has read, but I was only able to find the three other audio installments in the YouSpace series. His voice really is the ideal match for a story like this though, especially since so many of the jokes are best delivered in a deadpan manner, which Sawyer nails down perfectly in his performance. If I were to go back and pick up the previous books, audio would probably be my choice of format, just to hear him read again. He made Mordak the goblin king even more hilarious, and his timing and accents are dead-on.
I confess, however, that I am not good at all with describing humor, so ultimately this is probably something you would have to try for yourself to see if it works for you. For me personally, this turned out to be quite a funny and refreshingly clever book. The plot is silly, but it’s not without substance. The writing is also sharp, with just the right amount of cheek. Satire is tricky, but Tom Holt’s style seemed to strike the right note with me.