Review: Only Human by Tom Holt (1999)

Only HumanOnly Human by Tom Holt
Publication: Little, Brown Book Group (December 1, 2004), Paperback, 352 pages / ISBN 1857239490
Genre: Fantasy
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In one sentence: Slightly disappointing but hilarious fantasy book that’d be best read on a rainy afternoon.

I first heard about Only Human from…somewhere. I, er, don’t remember. I do know it’s been on my BookMooch wishlist for about three or four months, so imagine my surprise when someone posted it! Yay! Unfortunately, while I did enjoy reading it, it wasn’t as good as I was hoping (or expecting).

Summary from Amazon:

Something is about to go wrong. Very wrong. What do you expect if the Supreme Being decides to get away from it all for a few days, leaving his naturally inquisitive son to look after the cosmic balance of things? A minor hiccup with a human soul and a welding machine soon leads to a violent belch, and before you know it the human condition—not to mention the lemming condition—is tumbling down the slippery slope to chaos.

The humor in Only Human reminds me a lot of Terry Pratchett, but maybe with less puns and more surreality. It certainly made me laugh out loud a lot, and sometime the plot got so weird and fantastic I couldn’t do anything but go along with the ride.

I think I like Only Human mostly because of that surreality, and maybe also the fact that it takes inanimate objects and sticks their souls into humans. Um, hello? Seriously awesome idea! The characters are interesting and sympathetic, although maybe the inanimate objects more so than the already-human characters, and the story is equal parts fun and witty.

The whole “God acts like a human (and takes fishing trips) and humans are awesome, etc.” thing (if that even makes sense) seems a little dated to me, probably because I’ve seen it in so many other books/comicbooks/etc. that were published earlier than Only Human. However, I really enjoyed the political commentary more than the religious commentary. For instance, when the Prime Minister’s body is given to a lemming’s soul, the lemming proceeds to, of course, act lemming-like while everyone around him tries to act like nothing is wrong. Aha.

Still, some of the jokes and such fall a little flat or are too obvious, and while I had fun reading it I think Only Human suffers from slightly mediocre writing (or maybe plot). I’d recommend it if you like humorous books set around deities, Prime Ministers, or self-aware computers– or even if you have a lazy Saturday afternoon to slaughter.

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