Do you ever pick up a free book and find it completely surpasses your expectations? I guess I'm kind of used to grabbing a free book on Amazon and finding that it has the potential to be a good book but that it needs a lot of work to make it a great one.
Comic Tales and Fantasies by Wayne Gathman is not one of those books. It was already great. It's a collection of short stories which are set in our world but with a hint of the fantastic about them. Several of the stories deal with the same character, a private eye in New York in the 1930s, but there's a real mix in here including fairy tale type stories and sci-fi types too.
I think this could really do with a more appealing cover because this one doesn't do it justice. Perhaps something a bit quirky or cartoony to give a better hint as to what's contained within it. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to be much good but it was really funny and I couldn't help but be reminded of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams as I read.
Although there are a number of different stories in this collection, four of them feature the character of Dan Kelly, a private detective. I was expecting this to be a standard detective story so when there were suddenly ogres in it came as a bit of a surprise. But the way it was done made it feel totally natural in the setting.
I also liked that there were different stories about Dan and Kate interspersed with the standalone short stories as well. It was a nice way to break up the collection. Although I did enjoy the Dan and Kate stories, which upon reflection kind of put me in mind of the wizarding world of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film, my favourite was probably one about a guy who invented a time travelling device. It was really funny and with a great punchline.
I'd definitely recommend this book.
Comic Tales and Fantasies led me on quite nicely to the next book-book on my shelf, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Trilogy of Four). I own a copy which has four books in a single volume. It was one of my bargain purchases which I used my Waterstones points to get a few years ago and so I pretty much got four books for less than £2. I do love a good bargain.
This volume contains the first four books (in the Trilogy of Five); The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy; The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe; Life, The Universe And Everything; and So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish. The collection tells the story of Arthur Dent who ends up travelling the galaxy with a merry band of misfits after Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass, from there they end up at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, and eventually Arthur finds himself living in a cave on a prehistoric planet, but it all ends pretty well in the final volume when Arthur meets the girl of his dreams.
It'd been a while since I last read this because the last time it took me quite a while to get through so I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I was able to read all four books in this volume in less than a fortnight.
The general writing style makes me think of a mix of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Doctor Who. The latter is obvious because Adams was involved in writing for Doctor Who, as for Pratchett and Gaiman, I think they just have similar ways of looking at the world which comes across in their writing.
Without a doubt, the first book will always be my favourite. I love the way that Arthur Dent is taken out of his familiar world and whisked across the galaxy and we get to travel along with him and learn about the beings and worlds there. It sets up everything that follows.
I enjoy The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe as well and this time around I felt like I enjoyed So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish more than the last time I read it. I don't really recall what I didn't like about it the last couple of times I read it, just that it wasn't one of my favourites. My least favourite will always be Life, The Universe And Everything. I just struggle to follow what's going on in it.