Three more Tom Holt books this time:
Grailblazers – I think this one is a clear improvement over the last few Holt books, showing the author honing his style. As usual, it focuses on one element of folklore, in this case the Holy Grail, but mixes in others as well. When Sir Boamund wakes up a 1500-year sleep caused by drugged milk given to him by a dwarf, he finds that several other Arthurian knights are still alive as well, but have been forced into doing menial jobs. They are charged with finding the Grail (even though they don’t know what one is), but can only do so after finding three other strange items. During the course of the story, we find out that unicorns have been driven to Australia (and they’re quite foul-mouthed), Atlantis is an offshore banking organization ruled by a woman who was cursed after making Jesus and the Apostles clean up after the Last Supper, and Santa Claus is also laboring under a curse due to being the seldom-heard-of FOURTH magus to visit the baby Jesus and giving him a crappy gift because he didn’t plan ahead. I’ve seen several stories that examined the dark side of the Santa myth, but this is definitely one of the most bizarre while still making a kind of sense. Yeah, Jesus is kind of a jerk in this one, but Holt’s opinions on supernatural beings vary somewhat from one book to the next. Several other historical and legendary figures appear as well, including Simon Magus, the mastermind behind the quest. Also, there are people from the future who live backwards due to a time-travel experiment gone awry.
Faust Among Equals – I get the impression that a significant of this one was inspired by Terry Pratchett’s Eric, specifically Hell operating like a modern business. It’s not too surprising that two British writers of comic fantasy would hit on some of the same topics, but here it’s a little too similar. While many of Holt’s books meander but still have a unifying plot, this one didn’t seem to so much. Essentially a sequel to the Faust legend, this has Georg Faust (usually called by his English name of Lucky George) escape from Hell and have comic adventures in the world, all while pursued by master assassin Kurt Lundvuist, who would become a recurring presence in Holt’s books. Another recurring character, conspiracy theorist Danny Bennett, dies in this one, but that doesn’t stop him from theorizing. George is able to call in favors from just about every important figure in history or folklore, even if they’re dead. Helen of Troy was already part of the Faust story; but this book also has it that he went to school with Julius Vanderdecker (a central character in Holt’s earlier Flying Dutch), Leonardo da Vinci, and Hamlet. King Arthur, Hieronymous Bosch, Christopher Columbus, and Sitting Bull also put in appearances. God shows up as well, and this time he’s a really nice guy, if somewhat in over his head. It’s confusing with all the time travel and dead people showing up, but it’s still amusing. Also, Holt really seems to have problems with Australia.
Odds and Gods – Most of the old gods have retired and gone to live in Sunnyvoyde, a nursing home run by a strict matron called Mrs. Henderson. Aside from the terrible food, the main problem here is that Julian Magus, a lawyer and descendant of Osiris, is trying to get his divine ancestor declared legally insane so that he can take control of the world. Yeah, if you’re going to read Holt, get used to a LOT of lawyer and investment jokes. I understand Holt studied at the College of Law, so he probably knows what he’s talking about. Gods from many different pantheons make appearances, but the Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Norse have the largest roles. While Osiris teams up with Pan, Kurt Lundqvist (told you he’d be back), a sympathetic nurse, and her boyfriend to try to thwart his descendant, Odin, Thor, and Frey are busy restoring and then trying to drive a flying motorcycle. Odin doesn’t appear to be the same character he was in Expecting Someone Taller or Grailblazers, although you never can tell with deities. Since Holt often seems to have ordinary humans having to outmaneuver nasty gods, it’s interesting that here the gods are the good guys, even if they’re a bit incompetent after so many centuries out of work.