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When it comes to books, I might have some favourite authors, but I also have pretty eclectic tastes and will always try new things when the opportunity arises. This was how I came across the rather excellent Mercury Falls - offered for 99p from the Amazon Daily Deals for the Kindle.
Christine Temetri is a journalist who interviews cult leaders who claim the Apocalypse is nigh. When she interviews a leader called Mercury, she slowly realises that he is a renegade angel, that the Apocalypse is indeed nigh, and that the armies of both Heaven and Hell are seeking to bend as many rules as possible to make sure that they win the final conflict.
You can probably guess from that little summary that Mercury Falls is not your standard novel. It owes much (as it explicitly acknowledges at one point) to the barmy sic-fi humour of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams and shares the same slightly skewed outlook on the frustrations and absurdities of modern life.
Mercury Falls was pleasingly funny. I did put off reading this for quite some time because I have been bitten before by books that claim to be "humorous" and are about as funny as bubonic plague. As it turns out, Kroese is one of those rare authors who can take a fiction book and make it funny, whilst still telling a real story. The author has a wonderful turn of phrase which helps to find the absurd in the mundane and has an ironic, oddball take on ordinary events that makes them funny. When I started reading Mercury Falls I really didn't know what to expect. My fear was it might be one of those books which the author thinks is jolly clever and funny and everyone else thinks is crushingly dull and smug.
Not so; the opening paragraphs (with their linoleum obsession - a bizarre running theme) made me laugh out loud several times and from that moment on, I knew I was going to like this. Kroese has the ability t switch between different types of humour very swiftly, but still make the book feel coherent and not simply a collection of unrelated gags. One minute his characters are involved in humorous bickering - the result of misunderstandings; the next he is taking sideswipes at modern culture (the inexplicable popularity of the Harry Potter books amongst grown adults) or expressing frustration at modern life and technology that is supposed to help save time but ends up making a job twice as long. He'll then take an ironic look at human behaviour or point out how ridiculous and cumbersome big organisations are, and how they collapse under the weight of their own bureaucracy stopping anyone from doing anything. Whatever he is doing Kroese manages to be funny and entertaining at the same time.
It's credit to him that he still manages to fashion a proper book out of this, complete with a narrative that runs throughout and (sort of) makes sense. Too often with satires, plot is a distant, secondary consideration that is left to fend for itself whilst the author is busy making taking pot shots at various aspects of modern life. Kroese still manages to maintain a satisfying (if suitably daft) storyline. Inevitably (as is often the case with this type of book) the plot begins to take over towards the end and the laughs become fewer, but by that point, the book has already made you laugh so many times that you won't really mind.
It's also fair to say that the plot can get a bit complex at times because there are so many crosses, double crosses and triple crosses going on, or simply because the plot is so daft that it can be a little tricky to get your head around. It's also true that the book is a shade too long and started to tail off just towards the end. Even so, it always kept my interest and I never once found it boring.
Kroese turns out to have a very readable style. Whether he is being funny, ironic or developing the plot and characters, he has a knack for providing just the right amount of information. He is not one of those authors who gets bogged down in telling you too much, so that you drown in detail but neither does he skimp on information or character development. He introduces seem pretty whacky ideas yet, thanks to his narrative skills, they all seem perfectly logical and feasible within the context of this book.
Mercury Falls is probably a title which will be overlooked by most people since it is slightly out of the ordinary. I confess I would have done exactly the same had it not been on Amazon's Daily Deal for 99p. Having read it, though, I can definitely recommend it. At normal price, it can be picked up for £3.99 in Kindle format or £5 in paperback. Mercury Falls is also apparently the first in a trilogy of books and I'm certainly going to make sure I read the next two. If they are anywhere near as good as this, then I'm in for a treat.
(c) copyright SWSt 2012