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Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt

Expecting Someone Taller (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Tom Holt

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8071227,965 (3.78)26
All Malcolm Fisher did was run over a badger. Unfortunately the badger turned out to be Ingolf, last of the giants. With his dying breath he reluctantly gave Malcolm two gifts of power and made him ruler of the world.
Title:Expecting Someone Taller
Authors:Tom Holt
Info:St Martins Pr (1988), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, Read fairly recently

Work Information

Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt (1987)

  1. 00
    The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (bmlg)
    bmlg: hapless Brit everyman is caught up in world-shaking (and world-ending) events; absurdist humour with a hint of pathos
  2. 00
    Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (themulhern)
    themulhern: The one is a fine retelling of Norse mythology, the other is humorous fantasy based on Norse mythology. So they compliment each other nicely. And both are written rather cleverly.
  3. 00
    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (themulhern)
    themulhern: Norse god stuff in modern times. Possibly written at around the same time.

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» See also 26 mentions

English (11)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Funny, sometimes clever, popcorn reading. Nothing here made me LOL, but plenty of smiles and smirks. Just what the doctor ordered after my last read and with my kids commencing phase 17 of the now sprawling operation "5000 Night of Sleep Deprivation."

I suspect if I read this in a different state I might be somewhat underwhelmed else I would go for 4-stars. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Aug 12, 2023 |
A fun, Norse mythology-inspired caper in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Absurdest in a very British way. ( )
  xaverie | Apr 3, 2023 |
After watching the operas this is a fun book to read. Thoroughly enjoyed it. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Feb 22, 2022 |
Humorous fantasy of an un-Pratchett-like sort. The kind of thing that is fun now and then, but leaves you with nothing. Sentimental, but not unreadably so. There are some excellent lines in an early chapter that establish the protagonist's character and his relation to his entire family which are really funny.

Most of the cover images are awful, the one I've selected, with a helmet above the word "Taller" and a short person below is the best. ( )
  themulhern | Jan 20, 2018 |
Usually I review exciting new indies, not reprints of ancient texts that underpin Waterstones, but I have re-visited Expecting Someone Taller by Tom Holt because I remember it as an effortlessly entertaining and informative read, yet couldn’t quite recall what it was about the style and technicalities that left such an impression in my mind. Having done so now, re-read it with a brain that’s a few years more developed, I have noted:

The writing is conversational, with a sort of fifty-fifty split of description to quotation. It has an irreverence to it, chatty and self-depreciating. It’s also a parody, where the author has taken a classic international story, many generations old, which already has a set of deeply established characters and has continued that piece of world building in the style of an anecdote he might tell to a friend in a village pub. Holt has put his stamp on this, so it is no longer “heavy” and by doing that he’s slid it along from the dusty classics section to inhabit the fresh-faced young adult shelf, yet it still conveys tons of legendary information and entertains broader bands above and below that simplistic YA demographic.

The hero is a timid everyman in the shadow of his sister, who excels at nothing that we value in modern life and doesn’t even measure up as a self-assured male but, uniquely, would be exceptionally good at a specific role in a fantasy reality (i.e. ruling everything). He, Malcolm, fits the pattern that if you were that exceptionally rare kind of person that could hold absolute power without hurting anybody (ideally never using it at all), then you’d be a stunning success in comparison with just about everyone else, who would use it to apply all their petty prejudices and therefore submerge into the minus column. To be the best, you wouldn’t even need to improve anything – just play for a draw, neutralise the dangerously unlimited god/boss role and move small measures of necessary power down the ladder to those functionaries who need it, usually to fix things on a daily basis and keep them moving. Malcolm does try things out, in a minimum and apologetic kind of way, feels guilty and leaves compensation to balance his experimental actions. Meaning no harm to anyone, even subconsciously, he’s perfect in the sense of perfectly harmless.

The exceptional trick that this novel pulls is in its introductory nature; to continue the plot of Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas and get the reader accidentally educated in the Teutonic myths and legendary activities of Wotan, the Valkyries, Loge, Siegfried & Brunhilde, the frost giants and the Rhinemaidens etc. It’s the Bayreuth Festival in bite-size humorous form, without the Germanic language, nasty lager and two hundred quid tickets. As Stephen Fry observed: “You can tell the Germans are a cruel nation because their operas last for four days and they have no word for fluffy.”

I like opera. There, I’ve said it. Not musicals. Both forms are theatre with singing but opera has the gravitas to tremble the heart and rouse the soul. If you’ve gone a year without crying, go to an opera. Ok, so why do I like opera? That would be because of THIS BOOK. As an incidental note, I realise that I also like Icelandic poetic sagas and kennings, which were introduced to me by this same author in Who’s Afraid of Beowulf. The point I’m making is that Tom Holt has a way of insinuating great and otherwise unapproachable cultural monoliths into porous young minds in such a way that his readers spill out into the confusing blue yonder and become better and more rounded people, with a keen interest in developing their knowledge and widening their cultural ambitions – probably forgetting the original influence that set them onto their path. I read this, I wasn’t scared of awesome culture in another language and I tootled off to enjoy that confidence. Now, who says this is a silly story?

Another thing I got from re-reading this book is how much Tolkien copied from Wagner who copied from legend. Does any of this sound familiar? One ring is forged in a secret fire and the power to rule them all gets decanted into it. The ring is mute but has a treacherous personality that actively wants to cause harm. The ring is passed from one ring-bearer to another by the act of murder, e.g. drowning or a spear in the back. Dark forces are searching for the ring because they are hungry for that power to rule the world. If the ring-bearer is mentally strong enough, that person can bend the ring to their will, but… the ring eventually turns them into something they don’t like. They’re changed by the experience and can’t go back to how they were before they had the adventure. In this sense, Malcolm is a hobbit, the only race strong enough to offer to give up the ring, representing all power, and hand it away by an act of free will. It’s the ability to defeat an opponent and then stop, not become as bad as your opponent by using your advantage to oppress and thus become them, everything you detested in the first place. There’s a saying that if anyone wants to wield power, that should disqualify them from ever being allowed to have it. Malcolm, the anti-protagonist, doesn’t think he is at all suitable for the job, is terrified of taking any action that might upset anyone, even the ducks on a pond, so is therefore the ideal candidate. I’d trust him with my life. I’d also trust Tom Holt to run my cultural information desk. This book should be on the curriculum because, if you see what I mean, it’s bigger than it is. ( )
2 vote HavingFaith | Nov 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Intelligent, original and solidly entertaining, Holt is a very good comic fantast and "Expecting Someone Taller" is a superb debut, introducing us to perhaps the nicest of reluctant heroes, Malcolm Fisher.

All his life Malcolm has been conditioned to believe himself a failure, existing only to offer contrast to his altogether more favored sister. But when he accidentally runs over a Frost Giant, disguised as a badger, he finds himself the inheritor of the Tarnhelm, a magic cap, and also the actual Ring of the Nibelungs... All this is thoroughly and satisfactorily resolved in the best traditions of comedy. Holt's delightful, readable, cheerfully intelligent book offers first-class comic relief to fantasy fans and to readers who simply mourn the passing of S. J. Perelman, Gerald Kersh or (dare I say?) even P. G. Wodehouse.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tom Holtprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To My Mother
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After a particularly unrewarding interview with his beloved, Malcolm was driving home along a dark, winding country lane when he ran over a badger.
Niceness, he realised, was not enough, and Love was only part of the rest. You had to have laughter, too. Laughter would make everything come out right in the end, or if it didn’t nobody would notice.
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All Malcolm Fisher did was run over a badger. Unfortunately the badger turned out to be Ingolf, last of the giants. With his dying breath he reluctantly gave Malcolm two gifts of power and made him ruler of the world.

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