By Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye
Published by Audible Studios
Read by Noah Michael Levine
This is the eighteenth book in the Myth-Adventures series. Sadly, this was also the last of the Myth-Adventures that Bob Asprin was alive to co-write. It has got its plusses and minuses and, happily, there are more plusses. Let’s start with the minuses and then I can spend the rest of this review in praises.
Our intrepid authors slipped a comic beat right from the start and gave away the entire premise of the story and did so with a lame pun. Why, after all this time, Skeeve and Aahz can’t smell a dishonest huckster from several Bazaar stalls away I will never understand and Samwise the Imp is obviously as crooked as they come. The reader must certainly understand that even if the heroes of the tale once more prove their utter gullibility. Okay, let me get to the point.
Just a few sentences in, Samwise (so named because his mother read “the classics” As yet another side note I must take exception to using the name of a well-known fictitious character for another character who is completely the opposite in almost all ways. This is not really the nod to The Lord of the Rings the authors obviously intend but actually a besmirching of one who might be the most noble character of the series so it grated a bit every time this one showed up… but I am getting distracted… again…) explains he is building pyramids in a dimension that turns out to be a mix of every Egyptologist’s clichéd nightmares. At this point, only a few paragraphs into the book I moaned, “Oh no! Not a pyramid scheme joke!” and sure enough, fifteen seconds later Aahz uses the phrase himself. I am incredibly bad, most of the time, at being able to predict how a story is going to go, so when I am successful it is most often because the author(s) were beating out the story with the famed “Sledgehammer of Subtlety.”
Even worse a minute after proclaiming he would have nothing to do with any cockamamie pyramid schemes, Aahz buys in and agrees to start selling lots in the pyramid, or rather in Pyramid Phase 2. And even though he balks when Samwise pulls the old bait-and-switch on him he still dives in head first (but at least he makes a deal for the very top of the pyramid). I think I was most annoyed that Skeeve not only allowed Aahz to fall for this, but supported him when Aahz some the rest of their company M.Y.T.H. Inc on the deal as well. Folks, friends don’t let friends get suckered in by obvious con jobs. I felt that was very out of character for Skeeve. I can see him standing up for Aahz no matter how deep into trouble Aahz gets, but he really should have at least expressed far more distrust of Samwise and his scheme. He should have expressed at least as much distrust as the narrative claims he was feeling.
In fact, Aahz fell into it so quickly and smoothly that I really thought it was going to turn out that Samwise had cast some sort of compulsion spell on them, but no. Skeeve and Aahz are just amazingly susceptible to the old B.S. It’s a good thing they aren’t in our dimension to view this year’s political campaign.
Okay, that was my major complaint. It’s a shame it tainted the rest of my enjoyment of the story because it really was not a bad story. It was not as funny as some of the early Myth-Adventures, but light slapstick adventure and sometimes tired puns have become the hallmark of the series. If you can accept that, then this really was a pretty good story. Certainly the plotline was well crafted and while for the most part I could see where it was all headed, I did not anticipate the path it followed to get there.
There were a few details where a touch more subtlety (such as the block that was probably telling Skeeve’s own life story – Sledgehammer time again, folks) might have served the authors better, but this has never been a series in which subtle humor has had a chance to catch its breath.
The action is good and once they finally got past the first few chapters the pacing is excellent. My only other complaint involved Skeeve getting dating tips from Tanda and Bunny. Wasn’t this mine tapped out years ago? Also, the “Kid” still sounds like he is the teenager he was in the first book, but even by the most conservative estimate he has to be in his mid 20’s by now. One thing I really admire int his series is how, unlike a TV sitcom, each story builds up on the ones that came before it (I however am sick to death of the pop-up advertisements telling us how wonderful those previous volumes were each time an earlier adventure is mentioned. Please! It was mildly funny the first time back in book two or three, the joke wore out years ago) so Skeeve and his friends are normally capable of learning from both their successes and mistakes.
However, that does mean time has passed. Even though some stories have led directly into the next and sometimes two stories take place concurrently, the time involved in each story has built up, but it feels like Skeeve is still the gawky teenager he was in Another Fine Myth even though he has been through the dating scene. Somehow in this he rarely learns. Well some guys never learn, I suppose, but I expect more from the hero. So the whole dating subplot came off as contrived only to extend the story long enough to call it a novel.
However, as I said, in all this is a well-crafted plot and a fin-to-read story. If you are a fan of the series, I do not think you will be disappointed. This is one of the better ones.
Why do they keep letting Noah Michael Levine narrate these things? When he isn’t bombarding his listeners with over-the-top funny voices, he actually reads quite well, but it seems he just cannot help himself and his vocal choices are frequently hard on the ears. Portraying Aahz like a crotchety old Jewish man from Eastern Europe, by way of Brooklyn, is so hard to take and his fake Marilyn Monroe voice really does not suit Tananda who should sound more like a vamp than an ingénue. I suspect that because it is supposed to be a comedy and a fantasy, Mister Levine is intent on making it sound like a cartoon. Maybe that might have worked had Mel Blanc chosen the voices.
I would like to further go on that the next time I hear the word “Djinn” pronounced “Deegin” I will scream, but to be completely honest I have already screamed a few times when hearing it. Doesn’t he realize that to pronounce it that way drains any meaning from the pun on “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair” which was used several books ago in this series (yes, he read that one too). It might have worked had he pronounced it “DeeGeen,” but, no. It was “Deeginny with the light brown hair…”
It is possible that my really complaints come from his readings of the Myth Adventures because the way he does it, emphasizes the inevitable flaws in the stories rather than covering them, which some readers seem capable of doing. Too bad, really.
So we have a better than average part of this long-running series (and if, sadly, any story had to be Bob Asprin’s last, this was not a bad one to go out on) but only a mediocre reading of it. Too bad… It deserves better.