Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Fool Books, by Christopher Moore

It’s no secret that Christopher Moore is one of my favourite authors (for proof, see here and here).  So, just because I’m off work on disability, and tight on cash, doesn’t mean I can forego picking up his newest work when it comes out.  I’m that dedicated.  And foolish.  But that foolishness fits in with his latest book, The Serpent of Venice, which is a sequel to Fool. 

Both books are the story of Pocket, originally a fool in King Lear’s court.  Yes, Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Moore has taken some historical liberties with Shakespeare’s characters – and by ‘liberties,’ I mean he completely made up when and where they lived.  Moore’s King Lear lives in Medieval England, with his base of power being in London’s White Tower.  There’s a lot wrong with that sentence for a historian and it would usually drive me nuts, but Moore wasn’t pretentious about these flagrant disregards for fact, instead, he plays into the ridiculousness of the situation by including some Cockney and modern British language cues.  It’s a real hodgepodge that isn’t aiming for historical accuracy, so mistakes can be ignored.  Kind of like Monty Python, really.

Pocket, as far as characters go, is very Moore-ish.  Moore specializes in creating engaging characters whom he’s characterized in past books as the “Beta Male” (as opposed to the Alpha Male).  Pocket fits this mold as well; he has no real power in the situations he finds himself in, but he has a streak of intelligence and cunning, as well as an innate sense of humour that sees him through the worst of times. 

A word on the plots of both books:  Fool is centered on the story of King Lear, that is, Lear’s decision to split his kingdom amongst his three daughters, depending on how much they love him.  When Cordelia refuses to be overly flowery in her description of her love for her father, he disowns her.  (You know what, just read the play your self for the details).  Enter Pocket, who is in love with Cordelia, feels filial devotion to Lear, and dislikes how the situation played out.  While learning about his own personal history, Pocket also has some time to incite a couple of plots of treason and save the kingdom.  The Serpent of Venice picks up a few years (?) later, when Pocket is sent to Venice as a diplomat to talk the city out of launching a crusade.  While there, Pocket is waylaid and has to escape mortal danger and get revenge on those who’ve wronged him.  Oh, and there’s a water dragon.  And a lot of talk of bonking.

Both books draw heavily on the Shakespeare cannon for plot development, characters and dialogue, and it’s a delightful mélange.  As always, Moore’s writing style is quick and witty – lots of insults and bon mots to keep the reader engaged in not just the story, but also in the story-telling of it all.  I honestly have no complaints about these books; they speak directly to my sense of humour, and I find them to be a lot like Alice in Wonderland; they are silly and non-sensical at heart, but there is so much logic built into them that you can look past that silliness and enjoy the humour they bring.

So, final verdict?  Read these books, duh.  This is, yet again, a wonderful addition to Moore’s cannon, and I can’t speak highly enough of his skills.  I only wish he’d publish more often!  But, regardless of when his books come out, I’m clearly impelled to pick them up as soon as possible.  Maybe there’s some eye of newt embedded in the paper of the books…. I wouldn’t put it past Parsley, Rosemary and Sage….

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