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BOOK
Who Needs Cleopatra?

Author: Steve Redwood
Reverb
RRP 7.99
ISBN 1 905315 03 1
Available 01 May 2005


So, say you have the blueprints to a time machine, just what mysteries of the universe would you like to explore. Well, the first thing that comes to our heroes mind is to throw himself into the orgiastic delights of Cleopatra's hedonistic court, but without the financial means to build his machine our hero forms a pact with a morally corrupt and slightly homicidal industrialist, who insists that his only son, Bertie, go on each trip as well..

Who Needs Cleopatra by Steve Redwood was without doubt a delight to read. I'm always wary of publishing houses whose motto is 'getting writers read', it usually denotes vanity presses and vanity presses usually denote pretty awful writing. Not so in this case. If Redwood is indicative of the level of writers that this press turns out then I'd be very interested in reading more of their output.

Redwood sends his chrononauts to discover some of histories greatest mysteries. Unfortunately, Redwoods two would be adventurers consists of one very hairy and stupid Bertie, the son of the homicidal industrialist and our hero, who thinks more with his private parts than his evidently limited intelligence. These two try to discover the secret of Mona Lisa's smile and the death of Rasputin. More controversially they also involve themselves in the crucifixion of Jesus, the birth of Mormon faith and the beginnings of the human race with Cain. You might think that the last three were controversial choices for the author, but he describes the events with wit and a subtlety that should only upset the most religiously fanatic.

The central facets of the book, that should interest the potential reader, is that the book is both a good read, as a science fiction novel, with enough twists and turns to please the most demanding time travel fan. Not only that but the novel, as a whole, is really funny. It's nice to read a novel with a comic narrative that you don't instantly spend your time knowing who the author is trying to emulate. Redwood has his own voice and his own sense of humour.

If you can find this book it's a steal at the price. Given his style of writing it's maybe worth looking out for his other novels Fisher of Devils and The Heisenberg Mutation and Other Transfigurations. I can't attest to how good they are but if Who Needs Cleopatra is anything to go on Redwood would have had to suffer a real creative implosion for them not to be worth reading.

Charles Packer

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