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Master of Formalities by Scott Meyer
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Master of Formalities

by Scott Meyer

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  tyrelsouza | Oct 20, 2015 |
Wollard is not Jeeves.

Should we downgrade a book because it isn't want we wanted it to be?

The publisher's blurb suggests that this is a humorous book about a character with a job description something between a chamberlain and a butler. Riffling the mental Rolodex one quickly pulls up Jeeves, Retief, Mr. Stevens and perhaps Skaffen-Amtiskaw. Or at least, I did.

The problem is that Wollard isn't anything like Jeeves, Retief or Mr. Stevens and certainly not like Skaffen-Amtiskaw, and, as far as I am concerned, the book isn't very funny. So there goes literary precedent as the theme for this review. None the less, Master of Formalities has some good bits to build on, so I'll start with those.

The "Full Formal Greeting," which opens the book and is a thread running through it, is brilliant and original and follows directly and logically from the ceremonial styles and epithets proclaimed by heralds. I love it and would adopt it in my own life if I could.

Wollard's clothing, demeanor, teaching methods, and details of all kinds, including how he walks, are 5-Star. Wollard is a likeable chap and I kept waiting for him to be funny.

The other characters are a bit more uneven. Most of the family members and staff of House Jakabitus (an amusing name that sounds like a jackalope with an inflammation or maybe a flowering plant) are good to very good, except Lord Frederain who is intended to be a bozo with a sharp mind but mostly comes off as just a bozo. The rest of the household staff do well except when the plot interferes with their self expression.

Lord Frederain is a bozo is because the planet Apios has adopted a kind of sumo wrestling as its only sport, called Sport, and the elaborate scenario that Mr. Meyer has mapped out for Sport includes a need for Lord Frederain to act like an ass. I did not find Lord Frederain funny, although you might, depending, perhaps, on your personal history with coaching dads.

Young Rayzo, heir of the dynasty ruled by his mother, Lady Jakabitis, groans his way through Sport and the trials imposed on him by his father and the plot, and performs well when the pressure is on.

So the characters are pretty OK. It is the overwrought plot that bogs them down. The book seems too labored, too many ingredients forced into too few pages. The "evil" Hahn Empire is just silly. The never ending war between Hahn and Jakabitis, too Star Trek. The tale of the unfortunate cook and the serving girl would have made a better short story than play within a play. I found the Arbiters at Central Authority to be tedious, not funny and a little too Spock-in-school.

I know that writing humor is hard, and I know that humor is in the mind of the reader. You may fall off your chair laughing at this book. I didn't.

I received a review copy of "Master of Formalities" by Scott Meyer (47North) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Jul 30, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 147783091X, Paperback)

Even when finding oneself engaged in interstellar war, good form must be observed. Our story is set thousands of years after the Terran Exodus, where two powerful, planet-dominating families—the elegant House Jakabitus and the less refined Hahn Empire—have reached a critical point in their generations-long war. Master Hennik, the Hahn ruler’s only son, has been captured, and the disposition of his internment may represent a last and welcome chance for peace.

Enter Wollard, the impeccably distinguished and impossibly correct Master of Formalities for House Jakabitus. When he suggests that Master Hennik be taken in as a ward of the House, certain complications arise. Wollard believes utterly and devotedly in adhering to rules and good etiquette. But how does one inform the ruler of a planet that you are claiming his son as your own—and still create enough goodwill to deescalate an intergalactic war?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 30 Jul 2015 10:02:38 -0400)

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