A Comedy of Terrors
by Graeme Smith
MuseItUp Publishing, 2012
also available in pdf (non-DRM) and other formats at MuseItUp Publishing
In times of stress, either in wartime, or in economic hard times that create insecurity, we lose that sense of safety we often had as children, and when that happens, one of the first things to go is our sense of humor. We become deadly serious, and frivolity of any sort seems to be out of place. Ironically, it is in exactly those times of stress when we need to get a good laugh, get a bit silly, tip everything upside down and look at ourselves and the world around us from a new, and definitely more capricious angle.
“A Comedy of Terrors” is that rare breed, a fantasy designed to make you laugh. Many fantasies revolve around a hero, but Segorian Anderson is hardly the run-of-the-mill fairy tale hero. In fact, he's the town idiot, with a wide streak of cluelessness that is bound to draw out a few chuckles from even the most jaded reader. This tale has some of the old standards: there's a dragon, a Queen, elves, pixies, trolls, and even dwarfs, but they're all just a bit twisted from the ones in the old stories – oddly enough, that actually makes them more memorable (you'll have to guess which ones have poisoned arrows and love garlic).
But there are new concepts as well. Anyone who's ever worked in a corporate environment will immediately recognize the job of being the “Queen's Idiot.” Making money in the middle is also a topic that comes up as we discover business acumen in Smith's fantasy world, with special attention to even demons playing by the rules (however twisted) . Potential culprits are everywhere, all of them characters of one kind or another. And there are vivid explanations of why it is unwise to allow Dragons to drink “apple juice.” Dragons are named in inventive ways, and there are unexpected story turns and side roads everywhere (where nobody's more surprised than the Idiot, in spite of the fact that we are all pretty sure we know what's about to go down), and more than a few side-punches at the way politics and human nature work in every age and country.
There is also, most obviously, fun and a sense of silly word play and goofiness that brings a lightness of tone, and a grin or two, including some kitchy asides that would have made the Monty Python folks realize they had a kindred spirit in the writing genre.
It's written with Victorian sensibilities (topics that would seem off-color if mentioned outright, are hinted at rather than stated, and there are formal protocols to be followed when talking to a Queen), including a more than a few references to Victoria herself, so it would be fine for teen, or even younger readers (some may not “get it” in the case of some things left unspoken or unexplained that an adult would easily catch, though certainly the teens would) the story plot, which is a bit of a who-done-it, might be a bit complicated to hold the interest of the younger readers.
I found it a hoot, and think we should see more in this genre. Keeping a sense of humor and that ability to laugh at ourselves is critical in this all-too-serious world. I'd love to see more of it not only in fantasy but in sci-fi as well. Mark Twain (who lived during the upheavals of the Civil War and its aftermath) is reported to have said “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter,” and I heartily agree.
Also, I'd advise readers to check out this publisher, Muse It Up Publishing, who's actively seeking to get more work available without DRM (the software that keeps you from sharing books with others), making more books available at significantly less cost to the reader. They sometimes have free downloads and book giveaways, and it's a good place to look for the authors that may be up-and-coming in the future. You can also get specific formats (Kindle and Nook) as well as non-DRM (pdf and smashwords) formats.