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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Review: Confessions of a Gentleman Arachnid, Michael Coolwood.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

There seems to be no other way to start this review: What a spiffing yarn Coolwood has spun.

Milligan Clodthorpe, an aristocratic gentleman of the arachnid variety, takes up an invitation from his relatives to spend some time in the country at his familial seat, Newbury Towers. Yet it is far from the relaxing holiday he anticipates.

Bainbridge, an associate of the family, swaps his newly acquired human body with Clodthorpe's. Clodthorpe, utterly outraged, does his utmost to persuade Bainbridge to swap back. But Bainbridge is a wily one, and leads Clodthorpe on a merry dance across space to do so. From quaint, human village fetes (a species which Clodthorpe often villifies) to battleships and asteroids, Bainbridge makes it as hard (but entertaining for the reader) as possible for Clodthorpe to regain his body. Aided by his trusty man, Forsythe, and encouraged by his cousin Gertrude and and former comrade Pigstick, Clodthorpe's adventures are set out in a most witty manner.

It's certainly one of the most original stories I've read, not least from the characters. Clodthorpe is a character who finds himself utterly out of his depth, which renders the action that much more entertaining and the supporting characters more valuable.

The novel also tackles themes of loneliness and the need to feel at home with one's body. Pigstick's arc is a good example of the latter, while Clodthorpe's adventures show how his loneliness can be tackled by the deceptively simple solution of worthwhile company. Instead of hastening back to his own dwelling when his body is recovered, he ponders on the virtues of staying with his relatives. "Being alone with my thoughts in Eggart was not entirely healthy was it, Forsythe?"

A cross between sci-fi and a healthy dose of the self-deprecating and humorous British nature, Confessions of a Gentleman Arachnid is a thoroughly enjoyable story.

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