The Order of Odd-Fish by James Kennedy (2009)
I'm always on the look out for the next big thing. The independent bookshop where I work is unlikely to beat Kmart on price anytime in the next millennium, but what we can beat those pimply shelf stockers on is know-how. With that in mind, my mission recently has been to order in books from America that we might be able to beat the curve on, so that we can feed the world the classics of tomorrow before the conglomerates even open the boxes!
I came across James Kennedy's The Order of Odd Fish when I saw a link to a video which suggested that Mr. Kennedy would be able to prove that he deserved Neil Gaiman's Newbery Medal, and that the aformentioned medal should be forcibly removed from Gaiman and added to Kennedy's own private collection. The clip was eclectic, energetic, furious, and above all, pretty bloody funny. I knew from that moment that I wanted to see this book, so I had it shipped from the other side of the world for my perusal.
Odd Fish is aptly named. Featuring diverse and exciting characters of several different nationalities and species, the novel would be delightful to read aloud, and I intend to test that theory once the opportunity to steal some local children arises. Above all the deliciously inventive characters that cram every corner of the story though, Odd Fish has a delightful, almost classically British sense of humour, that makes every page a delight to read, so that I found myself chuckling softly under my breath at every turn, much to the annoyance of those who made the mistake of choosing to remain in the same room as me.
I won't deny that the book is imperfect, if anything it's almost too crammed with variety, so that I found myself getting lost and confused in parts, finding it hard to remember which of the many characters who appear and disappear is suddenly popping back up. The beginning also struck me as much more punchy than the ending, so that I was never as deeply satisfied in the second half as I was in the first. That said, it's a first novel, and above any faults it shows that Kennedy is a writer of superb creativity and absurdity, and some scenes - such as the one where the Belgian Prankster and Ken Kiang enjoy a tense and revealing dinner party - prove Kennedy's got the important part - talent - already down-pat, and his next book will be a must read.
I thought that strange and delightfully imaginative books like Alice In Wonderland and Hitchhikers Guide... couldn't be written any more without the authors of them being accused of taking various psychotropic cocktails. I am delighted to announce that novels stuffed with the wacky and hilarious are alive and well, and, if in no-one else, they live in James Kennedy.
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