Following a very unpleasant encounter with a band of brigands,
Bhark Lhoudly and Whindy the Brave finally make it to Hops
Castle, tired, hungry and naked. They are befriended and rescued
by Cedric Beansprout, a rather inebriated castle guard. The
boys however are not out of the woods, well they are but you
know what I mean. Murder is afoot in Hops Castle, and by way
of the usual hilarious misunderstandings, that usually end
up with a vicar with his pants round his ankles, in an English
farce, the boys are implicated. Can Cedric help the boys,
indeed can he stay sober enough to remember who they are,
or does their salvation lay in the beautiful but enigmatic
Poplar who takes them under her wing...
Negative is the first novel by Robin Gilbert and as such
should be treated with some respect, it's difficult enough
to get anything published and so the release of your first
book must be a nerve wrenching experience. Added to this,
Robin has written a comedic novel, a difficult genre to pull
off successfully. So does he succeed? Well yes and no.
I guess when you do your first novel everything that you can
think off as a good idea is thrown down on the paper. Not
a bad idea and it's the reason that publishing houses have
editors. The main problem with Robin's book is that it doesn't
look like his editor reined him in enough. As a first novel,
it is a valiant try, the more so as he chose a comedy. But
the book is over long with many of the jokes becoming repetitive.
The plot doesn't really click in until nearly a hundred pages
into the book, giving readers little more that a series of
amusing anecdotes as the boys adjust to life in the castle.
This is a shame as the book is well written, he has a nice
easy prose style, which bounces jauntily along, with nice
descriptive passages which gives the reader a real feeling
for daily life in Hops Castle. But there are only so many
willie jokes that one can find funny, and believe me there
are a lot of them. Also, there is a repetition of word play
along the lines of "he felt happy, but happy didn't mind as
she was used to being felt up." Funny the first time but not
up to Douglas Adams use of word play.
a good note there are some funny and interesting minor characters.
I especially liked the woman who daily finds more intriguing
ways of committing suicide, whilst failing miserably at every
attempt, much to the amusement of the towns folk. The animals
also play a part in the story with Ned the sheepdog, Wallop
the horse and Dangerous the cat, all trying to help the boys.
These characters are introduced a little at a time which does
create interest in the reader as to their identity and motivation.
If you are stuck waiting for the next Terry Prachett book
to come out you could do worse than reading Double Negative,
though at 284 pages I can't help feeling that if 80 of those
had been cut it would have produced a much tighter, more enjoyable
novel. Still, I look forward to reading his next one.
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