New York Times best-selling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic featuring the irresistibly mischievous Pocket, the eponymous hero of Fool.
Venice, a really long time ago: Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy from Britain who also happens to be a favorite of the Doge: The rascal-Fool Pocket. This trio of cunning plotters have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising a spirited evening. Their invitation is, of course, bogus. These scoundrels have something far less amusing planned for the man who has consistently foiled their quest for power and wealth. But this Fool is no fool.…
Once again, Christopher Moore delivers a rousing literary satire: A dramedy mash-up rich with delights, including (but not limited to): Foul plots; counterplots; true love; jealousy; murder; betrayal; revenge; codpieces; a pound of flesh; occasional debauchery; and water (lots of water). Not to mention a cast Shakespeare himself would be proud of: Shylock; Iago; Othello; a bunch of other guys whose names end in o; a trio of comely wenches; the brilliant Fool; his large sidekick, Drool; Jeff, the pet monkey; a lovesick sea serpent; and a ghost (yes, there’s always a bloody ghost).
Wickedly witty and outrageously inventive, The Serpent of Venice pays cheeky homage to the Bard and illuminates the absurdity of the human condition as only Christopher Moore can.
©2014 Christopher Moore (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers
Avid marathoner and hi tech market analyst. Lover of Ken Follett, Christopher Moore, Timothy Zahn and any book that pulls me in.
Sadly, I've gone from being a massive Christopher Moore fan after reading Dirty Job and 12 other fantastic humor novels to now dreading each new book. The reason: Since Fool, he has devolved his humor down to insults, scatalogy and sexual innuendo. The story in here is pretty dumb and basic covered over by endless jokes of the sort above. So sad and disappointing. At least no longer to my taste.
I have been a long-time audible member, and as I travel a great deal for my job, i consume audio books frequently. I read Christopher Moore many years ago in book form, and when I saw this new book had come out, I tried it.
For many books, the audio book version is about equivalent to reading the book in paper form (for me, anyway) except that I can drive while doing it. There are great narrators, and most of the books I have listened to are delightful.
This audio book is the perfect pairing of great, enjoyable story and narrator that seems to have been born for this part. Mr. Morton brought this wonderful story to life in ways that left me amazed. He is truly gifted and I will seek out his other books. You *MUST* experience this pairing. Words, alas, do not do the experience justice!
Sure, I'd love to hear your story....
Christopher Moore is no fool. He's one of the funniest and (only in the best way) sickest writers who ever penned a Shakespeare spoof. To get the most of this one I think one needs a passing recollection of a couple of Shakespeare plays (Merchant of Venice, Othello) throw in some Poe (Cask of Amontillado), a 1950's monster flick, and the willingness to listen to some junior high school humor spoken in a British accent and you've got the perfect way to giggle through an afternoon. Careful not to drink anything while you're listening - - I almost coughed up a lung full of coffee onto my iPad. Oh, and if you want to go in order, pick up Fool by Christopher Moore first, then go here. Great fun.
I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.
Combining plot points and characters from The Cask of Amontillado by Poe, Othello and The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, Moore sends Pocket the Fool off on another adventure, this time in medieval Venice. Pocket, nicknamed Fortunato by the Doge starts at a very low point in his life. He is the intended victim of a conspiracy between some merchants of Venice and Iago who want to start a crusade in order to increase their wealth. The last one had worked so well for them. Pocket is so low that he little cares for his life-- until he discovers that this conspiracy is the cause of his misfortunes! Most Heinous F___ery, as he says.
And the story takes off-- ribald, bawdy and very, very clever as Moore combines characters from all the stories into a fun listen. Christopher Moore is funny when read by oneself, but when Euan Morton does the narrating it is rib splitting and laugh out loud-- if you like Christopher Moore's brand of humor. HIs satire about recent world events is spot on.
So why not 5 stars across the board? I thought that there were a couple of places where it moved a little slow. Also there were so references back to events and characters in Fool that probably would have confused a new reader. I just took it as an opportunity to listen to Fool again.
In fact, if you thinking about buying this listen and have not heard Fool you would do yourself a great favor if you listen to Fool first. Both books have entertaining Author Notes read at the end by Christopher Moore himself explaining why he made the choices he did in terms of characters and time periods.
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
I am in a small minority of people who seriously dislike Shakespeare and are not abashed to admit it. I just never got it. But one thing I've always loved are alternative interpretations of Shakespeare. Most of those have been on film, but there are plenty of novels that fit the bill as well. One of the best is "Fool" by Chris Moore. That was the first of Moore's books that I read, and I've since torn through almost all of his non-vampire back catalog (I don't like vampires either, but maybe Moore can do for them what he does for Shakespeare, so I'll get to them at some point).
"The Serpent of Venice" is a sequel of sorts to "Fool", and it is every bit as good. "Fool" is a retelling of "King Lear" told from the point of view of Pocket, the king's jester. It is laugh out loud funny -- I was laughing even before I started reading it, just looking at the map on the frontispiece. Pocket returns in "Serpent" to participate in the retelling of two Shakespearian plays that are set in Venice -- "The Merchant of Venice" and "Othello" with Marco Polo and a dragon and some Edgar Allan Poe thrown in for good measure. And it is just as laugh out loud funny,
"Fool" is the obvious answer, but that's too easy. There are any number of novels that are retellings of Shakespeare or otherwise inspired by him or his works. If I were to go totally off the reservation, I'd point to "Arthur Rex" by Thomas Berger, which has nothing to do with Shakespeare but is like "Fool" and "Serpent of Venice" a comic retelling of the well-known legend of King Arthur (Berger did it several times in other books too with other material, like Orestes in "Orrie's Story").
But the best point of comparison, hand's down, is Chris Moore's very own "Lamb" -- in the same vein, "Lamb" retells a well-known story (the Gospel) from the point of view of a comic side character. In this case it is Jesus's fictional best friend from childhood, Biff, who joins him on many (fictional) youthful adventures. He tells his story in an amalgamation of the language of the time, as we might imagine it in English, and the vernacular of contemporary English, often with great comic effect. That is the formula Pocket uses to make "Fool" and "The Serpent of Venice" so funny and engaging.
I didn't know it at the time, but Euan Morton got me started on listening to audiobooks. My wife always preferred audio, but I stuck doggedly to print (I still read a lot of books in print). When Moore's last book, "Sacre Bleu", came out, I got a hard copy for myself and the audio edition for my wife. I struggled halfway through the book, enjoying it but having a hard time actually reading it. With a long drive ahead of me, I grabbed the audio version and finished it up, enjoying it so much more than the print edition that I started to listen to audio regularly.
I have already read "Fool" in print, but I may not go back and re-read it in audio, narrated as well by Morton. I have come to believe that Moore is best read in audio. A good narrator with good comic timing can make the best lines work better than I can in my imagination (I find the same to be true of A. Lee Martinez and John Scalzi). Morton does a great job with Moore's books.
That said, I think he misfires badly with his voicing of the chorus, too shrill and over the top. On the other hand, Pocket and Iago and Jessica are really well done, as are most of the other characters who have funny lines -- Othello and Shylock, the serious characters, are read as such, so they don't stand out as much.
Pocket, of course. But only if he brings the Puppet Jones with him and speaks at least a little effing French. I would ask him to leave Drool and Jeff the monkey behind if it was dinner so that we could maintain at least a veneer of decorum, although I wouldn't expect Pocket to control himself throughout.
Pocket is a great creation.The smartest person in the room despite playing the role of fool, and despite constantly allowing his ego to interfere with his thought process. And an expert in cracking wise in a combination of Shakespearian English and contemporary slang (with a bent toward vulgarity in both genres), and with that dash of effing French thrown in just so he can say effing French as much as possible.
I'm a big fan of Moore. His newest books have been about a piece of history and/or a story from Shakespeare that he then puts his own nutty twist on. And Moore is nutty. Of that particular genre, this is his best yet.
If you've read "Fool," the main character Pocket is back to lead us through, well kind of, the story of Othello. The story line, the pace of the story, and the action are great. The story is driven by Pocket and it's believable, fun, and left me guessing as to what would happen next.
The best part, as with most Moore books, is the quippy dialog and character development. That's where this book really shines. I laughed out loud several times and just loved Pocket by the end. He's silly, and funny, and naughty but also is developed as a character.
It didn't get five stars because about 2/3 of the way through, the story got a little muddled for me with the large number of characters. I got lost as to where the story was going a little bit.
One, possible suggestion: At the end of the book, the "afterward" or epilogue, Christopher Moore himself comes on and explains where the pieces of the stories were taken from to create his story. He talks about the history and about a couple of works from Shakespeare. If I had my choice, I would have listened to that first. I think I would have enjoyed the story even more. If you'd rather be completely surprised by all facets of the story, then don't listen to it first. But if you'd like to have your bearings, and understand why Othello runs into some of the characters he does, before the book, I'd go to the end and listen to Moore's dialogue. It is really interesting stuff, it was great that he added it.
Morton as a narrator was awesome. The "chorus" voice was a little annoying, but it was supposed to be, so it worked.
Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit
Oh joyous delight!! The return of our beloved "Fool" aka "Pocket" ready to wreak havoc and run amok once again! For fans of "Fool" - you will love the deliciously salty language and abundant sexual innuendo woven throughout this tale of love and betrayal. I have not read The Merchant of Venice (yes, I know - for shame..) but it's so much better from the literary genius that is Christopher Moore - perhaps our generation's Shakespeare - after all, wasn't he thought to be quite edgy-bordering-on-vulgar back in his day? Anyway, for new readers - dive right in - you don't have to know much about the other book to enjoy it - all you need is a love for inappropriate humor, saucy characters, and tragedy perfected. I didn't give it 5 stars across the board because I did like Fool a little bit better and I reserve all 5's for only a select few. That said, I forgot to mention the narrator who needs to be nominated for an award - he IS Pocket - the performance is seamless and the production is fantastic. Great audio book - 4.5 stars.
I usually like Christopher Moore -- this book seemed like an exercise in how many crass puns Moore could put in each sentence. It was difficult to glean a coherent narrative (even though it is a known story).
I hadn't realized before starting that this was a mash-up of Othello and Merchant of Venice, so I was pleasantly surprised at Christopher Moore's meshing of the two stories with the addition of Pocket as the primary narrator. There's a post-script read by Mr. Moore that explains the intricacies of merging two plays (and a story I didn't know of) that were written for different time periods, but the deviations from the plays and from historical events are not a big deal unless you're a history/Shakespeare buff. For those of us who recall reading the plays and being forced to deconstruct characters and relationships, this book makes you remember how timeless and great the stories are, and makes you forget how tedious the breakdown into minutiae was.
Obviously I'd compare it to Fool, Christopher Moore's previous iteration of Shakespeare's King Lear, since that's where Pocket (the Fool, Fortunato) was introduced. While The Serpent of Venice refers to Fool and often references Pocket's love (Cordelia), it's not a necessary precursor if you want to read Serpent first. But I'd still recommend both!
He did a very good job of differentiating character voices, which was no easy task with such a large number of secondary characters. His "Pocket" is perfect--he captures the snark of Moore's writing, the quick wit and mocking of the largely stupid ruling class (common to many Shakespearean plays) but allows for the vulnerability of a character who experiences a wildly strange experience with a murderous mistress.
Shakespeare's ghost* arises to present two stories with one deeply flawed hero.
*There's always a bloody ghost.
I also enjoyed Mr. Moore's commentary on the racism and stereotyping in Othello and Merchant. The book itself uses some wording from the original plays and some polarizing terms from the interim (e.g., there is no censoring of the descriptions used by Shakespeare for Othello or Shylock), but does not bring in new offensive terminology under the guise of literary freedom. Pocket is an R-rated scoundrel who you hate to love (but can't help it).
I love Christopher Moore and "Fool" is one of my all-time favorites. However, this was a bit disappointing as a follow up to "Fool." My biggest complaint is that Drool was largely absent from this story. Christopher Moore is one funny, witty writer and he delivers the chuckles as well as the laugh out loud moments as always. Euan Morton is perfect as Pocket. But, as Christopher Moore sometimes does, he went a little far off the reservation for my taste. Not as good as "Fool" but I do hope that Pocket and company return again.
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