Quest for the Holy Ale

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Image of Quest for the Holy Ale
Author: Andrew Schofield, Gene Rowe
Publisher: Melrose Books (2008)
Binding: Paperback, 480 pages

This is a book of two halves. The first half is pretty dire but the second half is reasonably enjoyable. It tells of 3 men, a monk, a barbarian and a barman, on a quest to find the recipe for the best ale in the world in order to save their local pub. All the while being pursued by 5 Hull's Angels from the competing pub.

Being an ale drinker myself, I had high hopes of enjoying what looked like a fun and entertaining romp. Instead it rather shambled along and up to about page 200 was very easy to put down and difficult to pick up again. I read 4 other books while still grinding my way through this one. The first 200 pages are the preamble before the quest gets going and is gag driven rather than plot driven. The main problem is that the gags are pretty terrible.

It's my opinion that black comedy, slapstick and satire are not easy, they all tread a very narrow path. Too far to one side and you're into gross and not funny. To far the other way and you're into juvenile and not funny. This book weaves across the the line in both directions.

What this book lacks is any degree of subtlety. For comparison, Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler from the Terry Pratchet novels sells truly awful pies and sausages, but their contents are for the most part left to the imagination. The nearest Dibbler got to describing the contents of a sausage was something like “100% pure pig, not your actual pig per se, but 100% pig products”. Compare this to the description of one of Awful Pun's pies from this book, "And there staring out at him, from the midst of various internal avian organs and their partly digested lavatorial contents, was the head of a pigeon.". The first, I find funny, the second I do not.

The humour is rather juvenile. There is not a kick that doesn't land in a groin, not a pool of vomit or pile of faeces that somebody doesn't fall into. There is fascination for farts, snot, sick, saliva and diarrhea.

Then we come to the second half. The adventurers arrive at their first destination of Nudia, which, Heaven help us, is the Nation Centre for nob gags. However, having survived Nudia, the story begins to pick up a bit and the quest begins in earnest. Thankfully, the gags start to dry up a bit and we get story instead. Now when I picked up a book, I started to find that it was the same one that I had put down earlier. The further one goes, the better it gets and by the end I was enjoying it. However, if it hadn't been for my having decided that I would write a review of this book, I probably wouldn't have bothered to finish it and I suspect that may be a common occurrence.


Thanks for reading this so I

Thanks for reading this so I don't have to... sounds like they thought of the title first, and didn't think about whether it was a strong enough an idea to warrant a whole book.

Keeping the big flywheel spinning...

Re: Thanks for reading this so I

According to my work colleage who borrowed this book, I've been too harsh. He gives it 4 stars. "What's wrong with nob gags?" he asks. He also thinks that the interminable cricket game at the start probably put me off because I'm a girl. Laughing out loud