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Ragnarok: Book 1: The Hammer by Brian James

Ragnarok: Book 1: The Hammer

by Brian James

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Odin learned he was going to die in Ragnarok when the Norns announced it at his birthday party (with an impromptu performance of It’s a Dead Man’s Party. They never got on well); after dumping the Norns in a nursing home in Des Moines (the Norse gods being quite happy with “shoot the messenger”) he descended ever deeper into paranoia – finally locking all the gods out of Asgard to make their living on Midgard.

Odin himself set up a very powerful defence firm with the long term goal of surviving Ragnarok. Thor, not particularly a fan of his father, became an NFL player and left bodies of quarterbacks in his wake and Freya tried to get along as well as she could as a sex worker

Until Baldr escaped Hel, Jormungandr woke up and Loki escaped. Ragnarok is coming – and we now have multiple powerful gods, fire giants, Valkyries and who knows what else all scheming and plotting for the last battle – a large amount of which revolves around Thor and Freya who would much rather be left alone.

This book is funny. In fact, there are places where this book is hilarious. There are pop culture references galore, snipe one liners, gloriously irreverent depictions and summations of Norse mythology and so much really really really good snark. I spent a lot of time grinning like a fool at this book. I don’t think a smile ever left my face and there were several moments when I laughed out loud. There were even a couple of moments where I laughed so hard I fell out my chair and someone had to help me up because I was laughing too hard to get up on my own.

And I love that – how could I not love a book that can reduce me to helpless, breathless laughter?

Sadly, I don’t love that book because the humour is what stops me hating it and what kept me reading it. I loved the jokes, I loved the humour, I loved the hilarity – but that was kind of all I loved.

The writing is slow. It’s clunky. We have very long, rambling recaps of Norse mythology. Very long, rambling explanations of various things as well as very long, and yes, rambling internal monologues. The story drags along for a long time, we have a lot of really unnecessary information about characters that don’t mean a lot.

And it’s forced. When the humour hits its mark, this is one of the funniest books you’ll ever read. But at least a third of the humour didn’t – and there are vast tracts of the book that are there expressly to set up another joke. Or a scene is extended for more jokes or has more jokes inserted – or even a legitimately funny moment has 3 or 4 extra jokes clinging to it that don’t work. When it’s funny, it’s hilariously funny – but this book tries so very hard to be funny all the time and it doesn’t always hit the mark – which leads to further long, slow, clunkiness.

It doesn’t help at all that some of those jokes delve into the sadly typical fat jokes and a lot of gay jokes that range from tasteless to outright homophobic.

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  FangsfortheFantasy | Oct 31, 2013 |
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