My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“I don’t know why I find it intensely erotic to stand naked before an open fridge, but I do. Maybe it’s something to do with the expectation of a hunger soon to be satisfied, maybe it’s that the spill of light on my body makes me feel like a professional stripper. Maybe something weird happened to me when I was young. It is an alarming feeling, mind, because all those assembled food-stuffs put ideas in your head you’re on the rise. Stories of what you can do with the unsalted butter on ripe melons or raw liver, they crowd your head as the blood begins to rush.
“I spotted a big slab of Red Leicester and pulled off a piece with my hands. I stood there chewing for some time, buzzing with happiness.
“Thas was when the idea came to me, full born.
“The force of it made me gape. A mashed pellet of bread fell from my open mouth and at once the blood flew upwards to the brain where it was needed, leaving my twitching excitement below with nothing to do but shrink back like a started snail.”
No wonder this man can write so eloquently and wittily about penises. It’s a great thing it’s not just them he can write like that about.
Stephen Fry is some sort of homo universalis: a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, only much funnier. He’s an actor, a humourist, a TV show preseneter, a walking encyclopedia, an activists for gay rights, a linguist… an intellectual all around. I had no idea he was a writer on top of all that but it comes as no real shock. One can’t resist but nod silently, in contemplation and agreement to Mitchell & Webb’s “who doesn’t want to be like Stephen Fry?”.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that the book I had picked from Politeia, just because it had “Stephen Fry” and “History” written with large playful letters on the cover where it also had a picture of a cat, had to do with WWII and alternate history. I was thrilled! It’s been some time since I last read a 500-page book in less than 10 days. It was a good page-turner, not too memorable or original, but for a lover of good alternate history and for one that wouldn’t turn down well-written science fiction, it was rather good.
I know that the best part of such stories, at least for me, is finding out the little details of the “fictional” worlds that have branched out differently. Therefore, I shall not disclose anything but what’s necessary to whet your appetite: if Hitler had never been born, how can we be sure that the evil he was responsible for would have been equally prevented? Would Rock & Roll have ever been born? Would Orwell live to write 1984? What would the computers look like in 1996 — the year the book was written? Stephen Fry in his signature cerebral style includes real historical tidbits on many personalities of the past as well as science and cultural background that make the thing more believeable. It seems only right that a man with a broad range of interests such as himself would be the perfect candidate to write such a demanding genre as alternate history.
I’ll roll this review up leaving you with this: at one point of the book, the protagonist decides that the format of a novel is not enough to convey the action; the book promptly switches to telling the story by means of being a film script, only to switch back when the heavy action’s suddenly over:“I fade from Hollywood screenplay format to dull old, straight old prose because that’s how it felt. That’s how it always feels in the end.