Book Review: Falling Sideways by Tom Holt

This is only my second Holt surprisingly, the first being The Portable Door earlier last year. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gather he is very popular amongst fans of Terry Pratchett but I think comparisons here are wrong. I find Holt’s work far less like Pratchett and perhaps more along the lines of Jasper Fforde in terms of tone and style. Pratchett’s plots are straightforward and easy to summarise. Based on the now two books I have read by Holt, his are not so easy to quantify.

Falling Sideways is a fun, complex, silly yet clever romp of a tale about another inept yet ultimately likeable employee (rather like in The Portable Door) who has a strange theory about the origins of the human race; this theory most certainly does not tally with evolution as we have come to understand it. Ultimately, we have been led and guided by a group of sentient frogs who are effectively or gods. The problem is that this theory is true and that our creators are from another world and pretending to be harmless indigenous amphibians.

Perkins is also madly in love with a woman that he can never be with. Oh no, this isn’t some soppy love story about how she’s too hot or popular for him, or would never look at him until he gets a sports car… she’s actually been dead 400 years and he’s fallen in love with a portrait of her. what’s more – he’s convinced that every day he goes to see the painting, she’s making rude gestures at him while he isn’t looking.

Well, he thinks he could never be with her until his friend sells him a lock of hair that he claims belonged to the fair Jacobean maiden; the same friend then introduces him to a man named Honest Dave who claims to be able to clone people. Taking the chance to resurrect her, he scrapes up the money. It doesn’t end well and Perkins soon finds himself at the centre firstly of a murder and then an art theft.

This is a daft yet ultimately fun romp that put me in the mind of Robert Rankin with quick one-liners, amusing pop culture references and some political satire without being too high brow. It’s well written and flows easily – one of those books where 100 pages have slipped by before you’ve even realised it. Pretty much as expected from this author and the genre but it didn’t set me ablaze.

If anything, it gets too convoluted in the second half; this is a shame because the first half shapes up to be quite promising with its silly twists and turns. Not bad, but not great either.

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