Review: The Philosophical Strangler (Joe's World Book 1 of 2)

The Philosophical Strangler - Eric Flint

Reading this book was sort of like sitting across a table from a madman or a drunk who’s trying to tell you a story.  Well, to be honest I’ve never had either experience, but reading this book is what I imagine that experience might be like.  The story is told in a rambling, conversational manner, and the narrative jumps back and forth in time as the storyteller interrupts himself to go off on random tangents.  The stories have many preposterous elements to them, and occasionally even the narrator will say he can’t explain how certain things happened.  And yet, in spite of all this, the story really wasn’t confusing.  It was just… odd.

The narrator of this story is an agent for a strangler.  A strangler in this setting is basically like an assassin hired to kill people, and he usually accomplishes the job by strangling them.  The narrator, his agent, is responsible for finding clients and negotiating the fees.  The agent himself is a tiny, wimpy guy who usually isn’t much use in a fight but, since the strangler is ridiculously strong, he doesn’t really need help anyway.  The strangler is infatuated with philosophy, much to the agent’s dismay, hence the title of the book: The Philosophical Strangler.  The story is about the various jobs they take, and random other adventures they find themselves caught up in.  Or the story is about hanging out in a bar.  It kind of depends on which part of the story is being told.

After the darker things I’ve been reading lately, I decided I should read something lighter in tone.  I’ve had this e-book for several years, originally downloaded from the Baen Free Library, but I kept putting off reading it because I’ve been skeptical about it.  I thought the book looked like it would be overly silly, but I’ve read a few books by Eric Flint that I really liked, so I figured I should at least give it a try.  Overly silly, often crossing into complete absurdity, pretty much describes this book.  It occasionally made me laugh, but everything was just too silly for me to really lose myself in the story or become invested in the characters.  I love it when books have humor, but only if that humor is in a believable context.

I didn’t expect to like the book at all, but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would once I resigned myself to the fact that the story would be ridiculous.  It certainly supplied the desired change of pace from what I’ve been reading, but I started to lose interest by the end.  It was a quick read, which is good because I would have lost patience with it if it had gone on much longer.  There’s another book that’s set chronologically in the middle of this book, apparently telling a story that’s frequently referenced but always glossed over in this book.  I already have that e-book since it too had been available from the Baen Free Library a few years back, but I’ve decided not to read it.