The Serpent Of Venice by Christopher Moore —
contact: Christopher Moore .
Stanczyk is a bibliophile, possibly even a bibliophage. Being a jester for three kings gives me an especial fondness for authors/stories that have a jester/fool as one of the characters. So Stanczyk has a special fondness for William Shakespeare. Imagine how this jester was jolted to find a story mashed-up from Shakespeare with a jester … wait-a-minute … who has a monkey … named Jeff? Oh rapture, huzzah! How did I miss the fact that Christopher Moore had these characters in a prior novel … Fool? Note to self go back and buy Fool !
I had only just finished the first chapter when I realized this story was a mash-up. It appeared to me to be a mash-up of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (comedy) and Othello (tragedy) and Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado (mystery). I was lured by the clever riff upon the Merchant of Venice title and naïvely assumed this would be a take off of that story. But I got more, much more than even I had bargained for and a monkey named Jeff to boot.
I like to examine a book like some kind of genealogy document. What is its structure? Is there anything unusual or unexpected? How many pages/chapters? So after I read three chapters, I decided to do this kind of examination. I recommend you read the first three chapters too before you do this examination. I saw an afterword. It was by the author and he gives his deconstruction of his novel — most interesting! But it can be a bit of a spoiler. Still I did read the Afterword before I read the last chapter … I just could not help myself. I already decided to invest myself in the book and was uproariously entertained so far. Having the author give insight, also added to my wanting to complete the book, but I did appreciate some of the inside “skinny” he gives, so I can ensure I get all that Mr. Moore dishes up.
I laughed at his wit. Its right there in the preface (called The Stage and after the Cast [Dramatis Personae] ). So even before the story begins, the humor has already set in. So I was surprised at his droll wit — not that he had it. Its just that I had Mr. Moore pegged in my mind as a Terry Pratchett. Indeed, I assumed he was some kind of Londoner. So I was surprised when I read his Wikipedia page that he was born in Toledo, Ohio. He writes the dialogue with such obvious British humor and dialect that I had assumed British, not someone born where many of my ancestors had settled, land of the algae bloomed water supply (that has not, so far, caught fire as Lake Erie has been known to do).
The surprise character (at least I think she/it will be a surprise since I was given an inkling in the Afterword which I read beforehand) and its introduction into the storyline called to mind for me, a bit of Beowulf. Especially since this story was already known by me (before the Afterword) to be a mash-up, so perhaps I was now hunting for mash in this uplifting and funny story. So many of the characters are very likeable that I do not know who to cheer for and who to jeer for. What a delightful diversion.
Its a novel in a guise of a play. Hence, the Cast and the Stage. But there is also a Chorus (like some kind of Greek play) and the Chorus is a character too! The book is so clever, this jester decided to Follow @TheAuthorGuy on Twitter.
Stanczyk recommends this book to all who like a good story infused with humor ala Pratchett. Its absurdist proportions appeal to my Slavic soul. The meta joke that an American can write the British dialect with such humor and panache will appeal to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams fans. Do not wait for this book to become available as an e-book on your library’s e-book facility, the line is too long. Go directly to your local library (or bookstore) and get the physical copy — much quicker than waiting for the Overdrive download to become available. I guess most people are afraid to enter the physical world and reticent to leave their Internet bus stop. Excuse me, I will have to go to Marseilles now.