Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #156: The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

[UNSET]I’ve twice been a runner-up, for the Cannonball (fourth place) and the Double Cannonball (second place) both, and I vowed I would not let myself come up short once again. No one was going to beat me to that illusive Triple Cannonball, least of all without a fight.

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So I put my nose to the page and read like a fiend. Naturally, I don’t mean that literally. I’m not legally blind. Nor am I a fiend. I’m only partially wicked. But I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you that. At least not the part about me not being legally blind; some of you might think I am a proper demon, or at least a troll, from having read my reviews thus far. If that is in fact true, it comes as no surprise to me, as it’s happened quite a few times in the past.

I’ve gotten maybe a dozen messages total in response to my various reviews on this blog, and all but a couple were of the negative variety, with the positive ones coming mainly from one user who mentioned enjoying my more scathing reviews. Though, with the wealth of reviews I’ve posted, my critics seem to have quieted down some, likely moved to silence by the endless stream of wrongness.

However, I didn’t do this for fans, I did it because, prior to 2013, it’d been years since I’d read with the same voracity as when I was a kid. These 156 books are more than I read in the 4+ years between graduating high school in the summer of 2008 and the start of this year. Heck, it’s only 29 fewer books than I’ve read the rest of my life, according to Goodreads.

I did it because it’s not often I get the chance to contribute to a good cause, since I rarely have any money to give. A Triple Cannonball likely won’t mean three separate donations to Lil A’s college fund, but in the event that that is how it works, I thought I might as well go all out. Maybe I would even inspire others to read more; I believe popcultureboy mentioned being pushed a little when he and I had an informal race to be the fourth to reach the full Cannonball.

Lastly, I did it because, despite my reading habits in the preceding years speaking to the contrary, I love reading, and wanted to share that love for reading with others as best I could. Oh, and I also won’t deny a small part of me just wanted to win, and now I have!

Not just the race to reach the Triple Cannonball, but also the subject of this review itself, The Serpent of Venice. Were it not for Eureka Books being kind enough to pick me as the winner of their advance copy of Christopher Moore’s upcoming book, the first time I’ve ever been graced with an opportunity such as this, I would’ve had to wait until April 22nd of next year like everyone else to read the continuing adventures of Pocket.

While I like Jodi Clager ’s straightforward, “I Like Prizes” tact, and the plug she got from Jennifer Kraus, I think we have to go with volume, so Travis Jarrod Smith, come in and get your book!

Finally, my tendency to ramble on and on about any given subject worked in my favor! They were even kind enough to ship it all the way from California, where they’re based, and included a bookmark as well. This has to be my 156th, I thought immediately upon having won. I had to wait a week or so for it to arrive in the mail, not getting it until the day after Columbus Day, thus making me rename it Literary Cockblock Day as I could’ve gotten it a day sooner were it not for it being a damned federal holiday; however, this was the latest novel from one of my favorite authors, a sequel to one of my favorites of his (Fool), and I still was getting it approximately half a year early, so what’s a week in the grand scheme of things? I get to read and review a book that, to date, has only 6 reviews total over on Goodreads. People are going to be giving me the same sort of jealous looks I gave fellow Cannonballers who snagged an advance copy of Fangirl. Beggars can’t be choosers and blah, blah, blah. You’re here for the review, not to hear me blabber, so let’s just skip to that.

To start, I was more apprehensive than you might expect, given my love for the author. The fact that these were the continuing adventures of one of my favorite Christopher Moore character creations just gave me more cause for concern. Sequels, it seemed to me , were not Moore’s strong sit, as I was pretty fresh off You Suck and Bite Me, two books as bad as A Dirty Job, my introduction to Moore (and still my favorite of his), was good. With A Dirty Job, I couldn’t put the book down, not even to eat my Blizzard; with You Suck and Bite Me, I could hardly stop myself from hurling the books across the room in frustration.

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Then there was his more recent track record to take into account, namely his last book, Sacré Bleu, which I couldn’t get more tha a couple chapters into without giving up. Before that, it was Bite Meand You Suck with Fool, the sole outlier, sandwiched inbetween. It had been 5 books since A Dirty Job, and 3 since Fool. I think it was only fair I tempered my expectations a little.

I mean, humor is an especially tough and unforgiving genre. Batting 1.00 is damn near impossible, and the occasional dud is to be expected. Even the funniest writers sometimes appear to forget what actually qualifies as humorous, and I would argue that Moore is one of the funniest writers going today, yet one of the least consistent as well.

Book to book, he’s never a sure thing in any aspect. There’s no better example of this than Abby Normal; she’s, dare I say it, likable in A Dirty Job, whereas I wished her dead (not undead) in You Suckand Bite Me. That could have had a lot to do with her role in A Dirty Job being significantly reduced compared to her starring role in the other two novels, but I doubt it, seeing as she didn’t exactly win me over in her guest spot in Bloodsucking Fiends either.

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Hence why I was prepared for the possibility that Pocket was about to receive the same treatment. As luck would have it, I was wrong to worry. I had a brief scare at the beginning, as the opening pages didn’t exactly instill confidence, but my fears were assuaged the second Pocket reappeared and began to speak. Pocket continues to keep The Serpent of Venice afloat for the duration of the novel; plot-wise, it’s perhaps Moore’s weakest, but I didn’t care what was going on so long as I got to see more of Pocket’s banter. For the first time since Fool, Moore seems to be having as much fun as the reader, and it shows most in the verbal confrontations the characters have with the Greek chorus he utilizes; in one instance, the chorus goes so far as to call the villain out on his stupidity, causing him to make a change of plans. And that’s just what made it into the final draft; in the afterword, he pauses at one point to lament a missed opportunity:

Othello is more or less narrated by Iago, who spends an enormous amount of time in soliloquy , telling the audience what evil shit he is plotting, so it only occurs to me now, with the story finished, that I should have had him accuse the Chorus of sleeping with Emilia.

Since he’s clearly still brimming with ideas, would it be greedy of me to ask for another sequel? There’s plenty of Shakespeare (and Edgar Allen Poe) left for him to spoof. Perhaps The Tell-Tale Heart could be next, and instead of a heart it could be Jones that is heard calling out from beneath the floorboards. Mash it up with, I don’t know, Macbeth, and you’ve got yourself a novel. Or whatever you think is best, Christopher Moore, since you are the author after all. Just don’t let this be the last we hear of Pocket!

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11 thoughts on “Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #156: The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

  1. Congratulations on your triple Cannonball! Well done. Are you going to keep reading and reviewing to go for the all time Cannonball record, or are you feeling all reviewed out now?

  2. I currently have 13 books checked out from the library, so I am going to keep reading and reviewing, but I wasn’t even aware the all-time record was in sight. How far am I from that?

    And thanks, you two! 🙂

  3. Congratulations! I’ve always enjoyed your reviews, regardless of whether or not we shared a similar viewpoint on a book,

  4. Congratulations, belatedly! I let my feed build up over the last two months so I didn’t actually see this until now.
    You mentioned that you haven’t received very many comments – I don’t always, either, but one thing that helps is making comments on other people’s reviews more often if that’s what you want. And some books just aren’t going to interest people, especially when you are reading so many.

  5. I do try to comment when I get the chance, which is to say when someone is reviewing a book I’ve a) read, or am highly interested in (likely thanks to the Cannonballer’s review) and b) won’t just be a complete contrarian about, because no one likes that. You’d be surprised how infrequently both of those are true. And I check in multiple times a day to see if there are any new reviews of interest for me to read, too, hoping for a nice recommendation or two. Goodreads has been taking its time lately coming up with recommendations, plus it’s rare I find anything I want to read among them, and even rarer that I’ll be able to get it without resorting to an interlibrary loan, so I’ve started looking for possible recommendations everywhere now, namely here.

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