Urskuul’s Reading Circle: The Management Style of the Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
Dear Members of Urskuul’s Reading Circle,
This isn’t something I enjoy doing, but I have to remind you all that we do have rules that members are expected to follow. While you may think the rules appear arbitrary or unnecessary, there are good reasons behind all of them. Xerxes Law, our suspiciously, conveniently named resident lore keeper, will be sending you all the latest copies of the handbook. I ask you read through it and make sure you are up to date to avoid accidentally breaking any of them.
The reason I raise this now, is we did have an incident at the latest meeting. I take full responsibility for it since it involved our newest member, Garim, who wasn’t fully aware of how things are done. He had invited a friend of his, Fyfe, to attend as a guest. As many of you will be aware, we do require notification and payment for guest attendees in advance. This is to ensure we have enough food, drink and chairs for everyone who is coming to the meeting. Not to mention a quick check to see if the guest has any bounty hunters after them to whom we can provide a tip-off. After all, we don’t want criminal elements getting in and the additional funds do come in handy.
Our doorperson, Pete, was quite right to refuse entry to Fyfe. His name wasn’t on the list. It may have been better, however, had he shown some initiative and talked to me first. It turned out Fyfe was a Thunder God, albeit a rather junior one. As everyone knows, Thunder Gods can have a rather short temper and there was a minor altercation.
After the situation was calmed down and everything was explained, Garim apologised profusely. To make up for his part in it, he has volunteered to be our doorperson going forwards; in charge of monitoring entries and collecting fees. Fyfe has similarly agreed to join the Reading Circle and pay a full year’s membership fees in advance as a show of remorse. I think we can all agree to move on from the regrettable incident and forgive Garim and Fyfe for their part in it.
If you are interested, Pete’s funeral is next Thursday. Please make sure you let his widow know you will be attending as Garim has confirmed he will run the door. It will be a closed casket ceremony, since being struck by multiple lightning bolts and then trampled by a minotaur didn’t leave a very presentable corpse. I look forward to seeing you there.
Unpleasantness aside, I’ve no doubt you are waiting eagerly to hear about the latest book on our agenda, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings. It’s the latest written by the wonderful Tom Holt. If you haven’t read him before, you are definitely missing out and I suggest having a look at his back catalogue. There’s more than enough to keep you going for months.
So, what’s the latest one all about? Well, the current owners, Dad and Jay have been running Earth for a fair few years now. They’ve gone for the “hands-off” management approach. They ensure the big things keep happening (Earth rotating once every twenty-four hours etc.), but don’t tend to take too much involvement in the everyday lives of humans. I’m not sure it’s the best approach; it’s not the way I do things after all. I’m sure there is some difference between running Urskuul’s Reading Circle and an entire planet, but I think we can probably agree you’d rather know for definite I exist and am sorting everything out so we can enjoy the meetings and read some interesting books. I mean, what’s the alternative? Just wait for a group of individuals to randomly bump into each other and hope that by some small miracle everyone happens to have recently read the same book so they can discuss? Life doesn’t work that way.
Anyway, Dad’s not happy. He’s a bit tired of the whole gig. Jay’s willing to follow his lead. Uncle Ghost appears to be suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s. By good fortune, an offer from the Venturi Brothers has just come in. It’s for rather a lot of money. And so, the contracts are signed, the Earth is handed over, and the Venturi Brothers begin to make their presence known.
They favour a more capitalistic approach. None of this good/evil morality crap or Heaven/Hell as the afterlife. Nope, they’re moving towards reincarnation, so feel free to commit murder, since there won’t be the punishment of Hell when you die.
Actually, don’t feel free. Murdering someone now costs you a rather large amount of money. Ten-million US dollars, to be precise. And there’s no escaping the charge. If you do murder someone and are unable to pay, you will end up in a form of debtor’s prison (known as the Marshalsea, which no doubt some of our more intelligent members will recognise from Wikipedia. I mean Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens).
A bit of a change, I must admit. While I appreciate the fund-raising aspect, the fact that I don’t have anywhere near enough money to take some well-deserved vengeance on people puts me off it a tad. Not to mention the fact that some people who are clearly my intellectual inferior have managed to amass large amounts of money that would allow them to afford my murder. While I appreciate sometimes change can be a good thing, I think we can all see some problems with a system that openly allows you to kill me. As opposed to the system we have nowadays, where you not only have to plan the murder but also an appropriate strategy for getting away with it.
So, is there anyone out there who can save the world from the yoke of the Venturis? Well, meet Jersey Thorpe. Doesn’t tend to carry cash but instead uncut diamonds, has a habit of managing to escape from almost certain-death situations and bears a similarity to a certain well-known adventuring archaeologist who you may have seen raiding lost arks, dooming temples and finding good cups in a bazaar. Hopefully you avoided the one about the crystal skulls, it wasn’t very good.
Next up, Lucy. Lucy was working for the old Management as one of their helpline operatives (nightshift). So when people phoned up to “report the imminent collapse of Western Civilisation” she could explain the out-of-hours helpline could, “only deal with urgent emergencies, whereas Western Civilisation has been in irreversible but gradual decline ever since the fall of Constantinople in 1453” and could they call back in about three and a half hours to reach the regular helplines? Unfortunately, she’s just been made redundant as a result of the new management.
Then there’s Kevin. Kevin is the youngest son of God. He is “marginally less well beloved and with whom his father was not always quite so well pleased”, in comparison to Jay. When Dad and Jay head off into retirement for a spot of fishing, he stays behind on Earth. Possibly to find himself, possibly to have a bit of fun performing some miracles such as filling the main tank at the aquarium with doughnuts.
And, finally, the Red Lord. An old Thunder God who managed to avoid being forcibly retired by Dad and Jay while they were in charge. His role changed a bit over, and most people think of him now as someone who delivers presents once a year, which might help you in identifying him. Fyfe was rather interested to hear this, and I believe he is looking into the possibility that Holt may have been right in case a family reunion is required.
Can they fix everything? Remove the Venturi Brothers from power and come up with a better way of doing things? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out.
I found the book enjoyable and humorous, inspiring a number of laughs along the way. The majority of the Reading Circle had the good taste to agree with me. A fairly easy read that provided ample entertainment. If you’ve been having a bad day, then it’s worth trying it. Don’t look for too much though. I mean I still haven’t worked out why, if the Venturi Brothers owned the Earth, then, surely, they already owned all of the money as well? Not to mention the economic implications if all the funds were being funnelled towards them and not being dispersed amongst the human race. It would eventually result in a shortfall of cash everywhere, causing widespread disaster. Still, if your sense of humour tends in this direction, you won’t mind that too much.
Do you have a heightened concern regarding your own mortality? Are you worried about passing on, leaving behind your significant other and spawnlings to fend for themselves? No?
Perhaps you should be. Accidents happen all the time. Especially to people who haven’t purchased a life insurance policy from Urskuul’s Life Protection Society. Statistics show that people who have refused to buy one from ULPS have a 100% likelihood of dying as a result of some tragic accident within the next few days. Protect your life. Provide for your family in the event of your death. Buy a policy now! Who knows what might happen otherwise…