Saturday, 12 January 2013

Paul Hoffman - The Left Hand of God

I bought this book on my travels from a W H Smith at Birmingham train station and I’m ashamed to say I have been responsible for most of their book sales at train stations across the country. Despite buying it at a train station I didn’t get around to reading until a holiday last year which has lead to it being one of the most dog-eared books I own.

I will start by saying this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, to the point where I didn’t write that much about it.

The story is original; the world it’s set in is dark and bizarre but not to the point of it not being believable and the characters are fascinating.

The main protagonist, Thomas Cale, is a young boy raised in a monastery type place by some unfriendly religious extremists called Redeemers. These Redeemers are training all the boys to fight for them in the name of some kind of super Redeemer person and expunge all ‘evil’ from the world.

Cale accidentally kills one of these evil Redeemer dudes and then has to run away, but takes some friends with him because it would be a pretty boring story if he ran away on his own.

One of the best things about the boy is the way in which the boys talk to each other. They have just escaped from a bunch of mad religious dudes but because of their training (I’m guessing) there is no fear and they start taking the piss out of each other, to the extent of making Mum jokes. This was a great way to relieve any kind of tension that was building up and I found myself laughing out loud – and a bunch of Turkish people giving me strange looks.

The humour continues throughout the book and it’s not just the kids that are in on it. Later on there is a conversation between two high ranking officials in one nation where they are discussing getting rid of Cale to which one of them says, ‘He’s a jinx like that fellow in the belly of the whale,’ to which the other responds, ‘Jesus of Nazareth?’

Again, I was in fits. I know the world is some kind of warped version of our own and this could well have been the case, but if it is, why does official number two ask the question if not just to make me wet myself in public?

This brings me on to another point about the way the novel is written. The dialogue is exceptional. Characters can talk for pages at a time without the need to direct who is saying what and it what way. The dialogue does all the work so narrative is not required. This is quite a skill, especially when there are more than two people involved in a conversation.

I reviewed my negative points and found that I was trying far too hard to find continuity errors and things that didn’t make sense.  I found the only noticeable mistake (which probably isn’t even worth mentioning) on page 248 where the narrative talks about ‘good and back luck.’ So a spelling a mistake. A spelling mistake is the only criticism I have out of 498 pages of narrative. There are probably more mistakes in this 584 word review.

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman was published by Michael Joseph in 2010. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)

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