There are two things I want to admit to before I get into my review of this book. The first is that it was published by the same company that handled my own novel, War Witch: Rise. Which means that, yes, this is a plug not just for the book, but for the publisher as well. The way I see it, if I can’t give free reviews to my fellow in house authors, I’ve kind of failed at being a decent human being.
The second thing I need to admit is that, in a round about way, I had a hand in this book being published, and the author, Matthew Catania, is a friend of mine. I mention this is because he was gracious enough to thank me in the book, but also because it’s a good example of how we authors don’t have to compete with one another.
Briefly, the story goes that after War Witch was accepted by Booktrope Publishing, I ran to the comments section of The Mary Sue to brag about it. Matthew saw this, and asked me about Booktrope, as he’d been running into all the same dead-ends most writers these days do while trying to get this very book published. After a brief conversation, and me encouraging him to give it a try, his book was accepted. So, like I said, the part I played was roundabout. As my own novel had only been accepted shortly before, it wasn’t him dropping my name that got his own book accepted. All I did was point the way, he got the deal on his own talent.
Now, I tell you all of this so you know that this review isn’t just of something I picked up and read, but something that I’m actually really proud to have played such a small part in. Matthew is a gifted writer, and his talent should never have been ignored by the publishing world for as long as it was. That he had as much trouble as he did getting this book out there speaks more to the failings of the publishing world, than it does his talent.
This is a thing that often irks me, if I am going to be totally honest. This idea that because a writer can’t get their work published must mean they are a crappy writer. This simply isn’t true. The publishing industry is what has become insular, often refusing to even look at a manuscript. Granted, there are often good reasons behind this, but there also a lot of bad reasons. Usually, though, it just comes down to money. By and large, the publishing houses of the world tend to blow all their budget every year on a small number of name authors, and can’t afford to take in any one new.
This leads to a shortage of new authors even getting a chance, which leads to more people reading less, for reasons too numerous to list, but often having to do with being tired of the name authors particular style or choice of material. Basically, it’s a nasty feedback loop. Name authors make money, so publishers put money into them, ignoring new authors, who may or may not make money. As name authors slowly diminish, due to age, or whatnot, there are no new authors to take their place, making the publishing world grow even more insular.
What’s that got to do with this book? To be blunt, this is the kind of thing any publishing house should have happily taken on, because Mathew is exactly the kind of writer they need. He’s talented, skilled, and able to weave a tale with style. He’s the kind of writer who will be replaced name authors in a few years, and one to watch for exactly that reason.
To kick of his career, he has given the world The Dolorous Adventures of Brother Banenose, which would make the Monty Python crew pass out from laughter.
Yes, I invoked the sacred Monty Python. Yes, I think this entire book would be right at home amidst their work. It really is just that funny, weird, messed up, and bizarre. All of which I offer as high praise.
The Dolorous Adventures of Brother Banenose revolves around a middle ages Franciscan monk, who one day, for no real reason, decides to go visit his maternal cousin Foxtroth, who lives in the Idyllic Lands of Bliss. Despite the Abbot of the Monastery of the Hidden Pox, where Brother Baneose lives, advising him against it, he sets off on his journey, and is immediately accosted and robbed by a schizophrenic dwarf.
That was the least troublesome thing to happen to him. He gets whammed by fornicating pixies, runs into a witch who wants to eat God, angers not one, but two Viking wannabe’s, befriends an insect that shrieks about doom non stop, and accidentally finds himself on a quest to recover the sacred Hangnail of Christ after a baboon steals it.
It’s worth noting that hangnail may actually have been foreskin, by the way.
The best part about the character of Brother Banenose is that he really doesn’t want to be involved in all of this. He just wants to visit his cousin. Well, and maybe do something worthy of being Sainted. Possibly get gently martyred. That whole violently martyred thing kind of freaks him out.
It isn’t just the good Brother who is a well drawn character, either. The aforementioned witch, Fairuza, ends up joining him on his quest, and provides some the best and funniest moments in the book. While her goal is to eat the Hangnail of Christ, and she takes extreme pleasure in making Brother Banenose uncomfortable, she’s a fascinating character, and easily one of my favorites.
Also along for the ride, for no apparrent reason, is Norbert the false pig specialist turned King of a country that doesn’t exist. He spends most of his time in apple crate, being dragged around by a boy in a bear costume.
Then there’s Stephi, the Marauderix. I can’t even tell you how much I loved her. Giant, strong, and very much a lesbian, she is also probably the only person in this entire mad quest with more than two brain cells to rub together, and the one who actually handles most of the problems they encounter. She’s a delight, and personally, I’d love an entire sequel that has she and Fairuza having weird adventures together.
As this motley band of misfits forge ahead on their insane quest, they encounter a plethora of secondary characters that can only exist in a Pythonesque work such as this. The All Seeing Insect of Doom, the viking wannabe The Cutest Panda In The Whole Wide World, and yes, that is actually his name, as well as one very comely twig lady.
They are also beset by pretty much every monster you can imagine, from manticores to fire breathing goats, to the most dreaded Timmy-Monster. Always escaping by the skin of their teeth, they chase the wicked baboon all the way to the Idyllic Lands of Bliss, for a finale that would make Terry Gilliam grasp for words at the sheer hilarity of it.
Matthew also provides all his out artwork for the book, which is done in the style of the time period in which the story is set. Whether that is dedication or madness, I leave to better minds than mine to discern.
I’ve mentioned in the past, during my One Punch Man recaps, how the finer arts of humor seems lost of writers these days. With such schlock as the Scary Movie franchise and Meet The Spartans going for sight gags that get tired after five minutes, the kind of comedy that once ruled supreme has faded. Mostly due to a lack of knowing how to be funny, I suspect, but also because of unwillingness to really go for the absurd. The kind that is almost surreal in its delivery.
The kind we haven’t seen since, once again, Monty Python. At least, not until now.
You can pick up The Dolorous Adventures of Brother Banenose in both paperback and electronic format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and check out more ravings from the warped mind of Matthew Catania over at his blog.
Don’t buy this book just for yourself, but for the sake of quality comedy.