by Will Macmillan Jones
174 pages, Safkhet Publishing
Review by Pat Black
Jazz! Bee deep a bop booyah. A wonder what a jazz troll would call himself? Boulders Starduster? Bridge Canyonhowler? TripTrap McScrotum?
Anyway, The Banned Underground: The Amulet ofKings, Will Macmillan Jones’s 90-jokes-per-page comic fantasy, isn’t about a jazz troll – it’s about a bog troll, Fungus the Boogieman. He plays sax for the band in the title, an underground (literally) rock n’ roll band made up of dwarves and other fantasy creatures who play in the Helvyndelve. This is the dwarf city underneath Helvellyn in the Lake District, where all manner of insane goings-on are taking place – not to mention the old sword-and-guts type of warfare for the sake of the Amulet of Kings.
The story follows Chris and Linda, a pair of teenagers sent to stay with their Uncle Ben and Aunt Dot – real name Grizelda – in the Lake District one summer. Except Dot’s a witch, not averse to turning taxmen and cold-callers into toads. During an attack on the couple’s magic cottage by Ned, a servant of the Grey Mage (the baddie), Chris and Linda are rescued by Fungus the bog troll and whisked into Helvyndelve, where they’re plunged into the middle of a plot by the Dark Lord and his henchmen, the Bodgandor, to steal the Amulet of Kings and attain unlimited power, or control over his taxation affairs, one of the two.
So much for the plot; although it moves fast, and deals with not a few battles, the true joy of this story is in the banter between characters. There’s no-one, from dancing plants and skyrocketing goats, who don’t have some sort of punchline or insane remark to make. The dialogue tickles many funny bones, and will remind you in the best way of Spike Milligan, the Goons and their spiritual heirs, the Pythons. In terms of the fantasy setting, the book most recalls Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, but there are strong echoes of the inspired inanity of Douglas Adams. Whereas in Adams’ world, you could imagine him putting together plots for the HitchHiker’s Guide as he travels around Europe, then I can see how Macmillan Jones came up with plots and gags for his own fantasy world from the Lake District, particularly Helvellyn – places close to my own heart.
Music is another of the author’s favourite themes, and there’s some rib-tickling musical references all through the text. AC/DC fans in particular will enjoy the references to the Antipodes’ finest export – but there’s barely a paragraph goes by without a joke. Lovers of footnotes will also find lots of asterisked gags beneath the line to chew on.
Read the Author Interview here.
A fine piece of work for lovers of fantasy and comedy - or simply miserable buggers who could do with cheering up.