I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
Published by William Morrow on April 22, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Humor
Source: TLC Book Tours
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New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff
Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.
This trio of cunning plotters-the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago-have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio's beautiful daughter, Portia.
But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn't even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he's got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.
Once again, I’ve been misled by bestseller status. So many people LOVE Christopher Moore. He’s hilarious, I’ve heard. He’s been recommended to me multiple times as an author I simply must read. All those people couldn’t be wrong, right? Yes, yes, they can. Christopher Moore’s fiction, if this book is anything to go off of, is so completely not the sort of humor I enjoy that I read this book with a big frown permanently on my face, except for those moments where it put me to sleep. The Serpent of Venice sounded like something I should love, what with the Shakespeare references and the humor, but, if you don’t appreciate his form of humor, it’s merely tedious.
Listen, I can be somewhat objective and give Moore some praise. The concept of The Serpent of Venice is actually pretty cool. Basically, what Moore has done is combined Othello and The Merchant of Venice in such a way as to turn two tragedies into one comedy. In fact, I think that, for the most part, he does a really good job of melding the two plays into a single story. The use of the chorus, as a wandering character with whom the characters argue is also clever, one of the only things I ever found even mildly funny.
The main character is a fool, known as Fortunato or Pocket, and who orchestrates everything that happens plot-wise. The fools are often the wisest in Shakespeare plays, so this too is a fun conceit in theory. Pocket is mourning the death of his wife, Queen Cordelia (from King Lear?!?) and out for revenge on those who orchestrated her death. Those people are Antonio, Iago, and Brabantio. At the novel’s outset, they’ve got the better of Pocket, chaining him to a wall, partway in water, and leaving him to die. /endpraise
The novel immediately proved to be not a Christina book when Pocket, chained to the wall, is raped repeatedly by a sea monster. Yeah. I missed that bit in Shakespeare. Not only that, but this sea monster proves Pocket’s deliverance again and again. Without this rapist sea monster, the plot would not have resulted in a comedic ending, complete with a number of weddings/couplings. “Eating the bad guys is such a clever way to deal with plot holes!” I will never say. So yeah, I start out uncomfortable and that pretty much sets the tenor for the rest of the book. Now, if you think that’s funny, then read on, Macduff. If, like me, you find it in bad taste, STAY AWAY.
The best way I can characterize the humor in The Serpent of Venice is that it feels a bit like reading a Will Ferrell movie. It’s sort of like the people who made Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 40 Year Old Virgin, Old School and all the other movies of that ilk got together and decided to do their version of Shakespeare. Let’s add some rape, endless masturbation and dick jokes, a whole lot of needless nudity, and resolve the plot through inane coincidences. Also, though I’m generally a fan of swearing, the way it’s deployed here is so utterly tedious, as it’s mostly fairly old-fashioned language interspersed with modern curses. *shudders*
I am very much not a fan of The Serpent of Venice, and will be divesting myself of the couple other Moore books I own. I do think it will be a great read for people who enjoy this kind of humor, but that is most assuredly not me.
“I was using the royal we, wasn’t I, love? Bit of the old God-in-your-pocket plural fucking we you royals use when being just a singular enormous twat will not suffice.”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: