AN ORC ON THE WILD SIDE By Tom Holt
Orbit Books, s/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Tom Holt is well known for his humour, and does not disappoint in this hilariously clever take on Tolkein’s world. Imagine if someone found a way to sell properties in Middle Earth to middle class retirees from (normal) Earth (it’s the new Provence!). If the new Dark Lord and Prince of Evil had some different ideas of how things should be run, and introduced New Evil, which seems strangely familiar to anyone that might have worked in a large corporation. What if the same person that was selling Middle Earth properties as retirement homes started kicking the Elves, Dwarves and Goblins out of their lands using legal loopholes and the threat of a neutron bomb?
All of these and more can be found within Holt’s latest masterpiece. Thumbing an irreverent nose at that most venerable of literary institutions shouldn’t work, but in Holt’s expert hands, it does. Whether you’re a fan of Tolkein or not, this book works on so many levels. The goblin dark lord with his elvish advisor introducing workforce management; the creation of the first female goblin through non-parthenogenetic reproduction (substituting the puppy dog tails used for male goblin creation with sugar and spice, of course); the lawyer with a misspelt, but accurate sign (“John the Liar”); the gold digger-turned-pastry chef who decides that feeding dwarves doughnuts and bacon is better than seducing old, rich men; the British couples trying to make the best of their new retirement homes in Middle Earth with stiff upper lips; the wraith that longs to be a supermodel, and the big red eye that keeps appearing on laptops, mirrors and puddles. There really is something for every fan of fantasy within these pages.