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Urskuul’s Reading Circle: Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Urskuul's Reading Circle (detail)Hello all of you lovely members of Urskuul’s Reading Circle. And a hello to the non-lovely ones as well, such as Melissa. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being mean to anyone by not saying hello to them. Oh. Except I already have been.

Well, not because I didn’t say hello. But yes. One of you, and I don’t know who, has sent in an anonymous complaint letter regarding my behaviour. It claims I am rude, insensitive and even vicious in my, and I quote, “undeserved vitriolic attacks aimed at various members of the group when they dared to venture an opinion that opposed mine.” The letter concluded by demanding an improvement in my behaviour or they will look to the bylaws and see if there is enough support to begin the process to remove me from my position.

Am I truly that bad? Does everyone feel the same way? I hope it is but a minority who have misconstrued my passion and decided I was being mean rather than overreacting to a differing opinion, but, if not, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt apologies. It is difficult to recognise flaws in oneself, but now it has been pointed out to me, I will try and restrain myself in future. On that note, I would ask all of you to fill in the questionnaire attached to the newsletter with your comments. This will allow me to use handwriting analysis to identify the complainant…I mean, allow me to see what other behaviours of mine might require improvement.

Now, having addressed that unpleasantness, let’s turn to the much more important topic of the latest book Urskuul’s Reading Circle enjoyed. You may have heard of Michael Marshall Smith before. He wrote the superb, Only Forwards, which is an absolute delight of a book. If you haven’t read it then you may wish to remedy the situation. Go on. I’ll wait.

Finished? You’re lying, aren’t you? You’ve simply continued reading on rather than taking the time to go away and find a copy. Well, I can’t force you, and perfectly understand your desire not to be interrupted whilst reading the newsletter, but do believe you are missing out if you don’t make time to have a looksee later.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence (cover)It has been a while since he has released a new book as Michael Marshall Smith; instead he has been focusing on his crime series written under the name Michael Marshall. But he has now returned to Smith and released a new one called: Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence. Some titles just jump out at you from the bookshelves and this is one such title. (Not literally. You don’t have to start wearing armour whilst roaming libraries or book shops to protect yourself from sneak attacks. At least not sneak attacks from titles. But we all know the perils of setting foot in a place with books, don’t we? Take sensible precautions, like a flamethrower, and you should be fine.) I assumed, rightly, that the title was in jest and it wasn’t simply a monotonous list of the happenings of Hannah Green. Which would have not made for a particularly good book, even if it made for an accurate title.

How best do I sell this book to you? Well, perhaps with the start. Smith’s chapter one is a pleasure to read and is a good introduction as to whether his writing style is enjoyable to you. It is often infused with a tinge of sarcasm which appeals to me. (However, if you don’t like it, you don’t like it, even though there is clearly something flawed within your brain.)

It begins by introducing Hannah, our eleven-year-old protagonist. She’s already lived through several stories in her life, “starring in The Tale of Being an Eleven-Year-Old Girl, The Story of Having Annoyingly Straight Brown Hair, The Chronicles of My Friend Ellie Being Mean To Me For No Reason, and The Saga of It Being Completely Unfair That I’m Not Allowed To Have A Kitten”. Those have become less important following the emergence of a new narrative: “it’s an old and sad and confusing tale, called Mom and Dad don’t live together anymore.”

You may be thinking you’ve diagnosed the story. A child suffering through the separation of her parents. Either she comes to terms with it or her parents reunite and they all live happily ever after. Right? Perhaps you’re wondering whether this is a fantasy book at all? Don’t worry, it is. Chapter two introduces another one of our starring players. We meet an old man, being slightly rude to a waiter (the waiter appears a bit of an arse, so don’t feel sorry for him). In return, the waiter decides to head off home and leave the old man waiting for his bill.

“An hour later, after a shower and in the middle of his second joint, the waiter from the Palace Hotel was relaxing on his balcony when it suddenly collapsed, dropping him forty feet into the chaos of his downstairs neighbour’s scrap of yard, where he died, reasonably quickly, as a result of a sheared metal strut which punctured his ribcage and heart.

This was not a coincidence.”

Yep, people randomly dying after pissing off an old man, seemingly as a result of a tragic accident. What more could you want from a book to pique your interest? Particularly when it turns out that the old man is the Devil.

So, good versus evil? Hannah, whilst dealing with the fallout of her parents’ separation, has to defeat the Devil in some epic battle because she is the chosen one who can save the day?

Devil Do by MadLittleClownWell, no. We’re not playing that old story either. Turns out, her grandfather is an engineer who has been working for the Devil for almost 250 years. He built a machine that funnels all of the power from the evil done in the world to the Devil. Except, something seems to have gone wrong with it. They need to find out what has caused it and how to fix it, and they need Hannah’s help. Also, there is a giant talking mushroom. He’s not a real mushroom, but an accident imp called Vaneclaw, but he is shaped like one. He’s quite stupid, but he’s going to help as well.

Sounds good? Certainly not mundane. Very funny and Smith has a great way with words. The Devil might be evil and he does occasionally explode the odd person who annoys him or makes them believe their eyeballs are filling up with spiders every time they breathe. It helps that the people he punishes tend to be rather nasty fellows. Even if you’re not one for supporting the Devil, the fact that if Hannah and her Grandfather don’t manage to sort out the machine then it will unleash all the evils of Hell back onto Earth, much like a new Pandora’s box will probably get you on side.

I loved it, as you can probably tell. Some of the Reading Circle had differing opinions but they were wrong so I won’t go into them here. Especially since my explaining to them that they were wrong may have led to the letter of complaint sent. I was simply trying to educate them and get them to appreciate a fantastic piece of writing, but clearly, I expressed myself badly. Anyway, please do give it a try. The story moves along at a good pace with some great characters (especially Vaneclaw) and the sarcastic delivery of the narrator make it a truly enjoyable read.

– – –

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Until next time!


One Comment

  1. Bethan says:

    I requested this book from Netgalley and I absolutely loved it! I particularly loved his way with words;

    “There was a clunking sound, low and somehow awful. It was like that feeling you get when you realize you’ve done something wrong, and deeply terrible, and won’t ever be able to take it back.”

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