THE EIGHT REINDEER OF THE APOCALYPSE By Tom Holt
Orbit, pb, £9.19
Reviewed by Christine Downes
The first thing I want to make clear is that I have never read a book by Tom Holt. This is my first venture into his work after a great many people have enthusiastically recommended him to me. So, I wonder if it would have been better to start nearer to the beginning of his writing career rather than jump in with his latest book?
The novel is set in the world of Dawson, Ahriman & Dawson, commercial sorcerers for hire. Given the title of the book, I was expecting some satirical Christmas tale, but sadly, this was not the case. Santa is a character in the book, but this is definitely not a book about Christmas. Bizarrely, each chapter in the book is named after one of the reindeer, although none of them appear in the chapter pertinent to them, and they only appear collectively towards the end. Confused? I was.
The premise of the book is the impending destruction of planet Earth by the vengeful dark Goddess Tiamat, who also happens to be the ex-wife of Santa. It is up to the various partners and employees of Dawson Ahriman & Dawson to prevent said destruction.
The beginning of the book is very funny, and I certainly found some laugh-out-loud moments of absolute genius and absurdity. However, it seemed to tail off after a while and became a little bogged down in subplots and complicated exposition. There was no lead protagonist to cheer for, but instead, a large cast of characters interacting with each other, and frankly, none of them were likeable. The character Tom Bateman was quite creepy and unsettling. By the end of the book, I really was not invested in any of them and was cheering for the crazy Goddess intent on annihilation.
I am sad that I didn’t love this book because I really wanted to. Tom Holt is a brilliant wordsmith, and when the book is funny, it comes alive. One of the funniest highlights is the interaction with the Bank of the Dead and dealing with the complications of passing security checks for online banking. As a satire on office politics, it works well enough but it is disappointing not to be a Christmas-themed book. Overall, I would say this is a book for Tom Holt fans, not for someone new to his work.