Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A odd and curious museum

Curioddity: A Novel

By Paul Jenkins

Publisher: St. Martin's Press 

Pub Date: August 30, 2016

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

In Curioddity by Paul Jenkins, we have a emotionally oppressed gentleman by the name of Wil Morgan who lives in a life-long struggle between the imaginative and the mundane. His mother, who died when he was young, encouraged a fantastical approach to life. "Your eyes only sees what your mind lets you believe," she tells him. His father, on the other hand, steered him toward the safe and the dull, so much so that when Wil becomes a private investigator of insurance fraud he is afraid to tell his father who wants him to follow the even duller and safer career of accounting. One day an eccentric owner of an unusual museum comes to him and asks him to find a box of levity, which is the opposite of a box of gravity. From this point on, Wil becomes entrenched in an adventure going beyond just finding a box and is entrusted with the task of saving the Curioddity Museum.

It is a cute tale and there is lots of stuff is going for it. Wil is an adult that misses the childhood feeling of wonder that his mother instilled in him. It takes a major push for him to reclaim it and that push is aided by Mr. Dinsdale who is the owner of the museum, and a woman who is so endearing and cute that I wanted to ask Wil for her phone number. There is a satisfactory amount of befuddlement in Wil's reactions to the weird going-ons and even a nasty capitalist villain to move along the plot.

Yet, as enjoyable as it was, I couldn't get over the feeling I've read this all before. The clever and humorous writing is often in a style too close to that of Douglas Adams and the characters seemed like copies from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy right down to the neurotic piece of technology. Much of the humor is charming but not all that unpredictable. At the same time, It didn't really launch itself into the farcical surreal as I wanted it to. In a manner of speaking, I wanted to do more than just leave Kansas. I wanted to see Oz. The Museum opened the door but I, Wil, and Lucy never really passed through it.

The thing that works best in Curioddity is Wil's conflict between being "odd" himself or being a conformist. That struggle parallels the conflict between the love for his father and mother to which he cannot reconcile. Wil's father makes an appearance in the second half of the book and it is those conversations between Wil and his father that puts flesh on the bones of the story . Yet the fantastical elements do not meld well enough with the part that moved me to win me over

Curioddity is certainly clever and there are lots of funny one-liners and situations. But with all the satirical fantasy and science fiction that is out there begging to be read, i just didn't give this book too much of a thought afterwards. It seems fairly obvious that the author left plenty of room for sequels. I can think of many series that didn't win me over until the second or third book. This could easily be one of them. But that is in the possible future and for now I have to say I liked it but with reservations. But if you are into satirical fantasy, it just might be worth a shot.

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