A BOWL OF FRUIT, A WHALE IN THE WOODS
Brunswick Galaxy Press / 258 pages / 1st edition (September 5, 2000)
It has been two years since Russel Like’s hilarious After The Blue. That’s two years waiting for another novel from him. That’s a long time to wait. It was worth every minute; A Bowl of Fruit, A Whale In the Woods is even better than its predecessor.
Strange things are happening again in the Garden State, but now toss in an invasion of blue aliens. Take a secret device, two slightly addled scientists, and a group of even more addle-pated humans, and you have the makings for the end of the world. Too bad we have only this band of common-sense impaired heroes to save us.
Greg Fisher is — like most people — thoroughly bored and unfulfilled by his career. Again, like many of us, he lacks the impetus to make a drastic change. Instead, he has taken to staring at the familiar objects in his office. Such intense scrutiny is only going to get him into trouble; he just doesn’t know how much trouble its going to be.
Greg is about to starting opening doors. Seems harmless enough, doesn’t it? That depends on what’s on the other side and if you close the door, again. Greg and friends will have to learn that lesson the hard way. More’s the pity for the rest of us.
A Bowl of Fruit, A Whale In the Woods solidifies Like’s reputation for droll, dry wit and imaginative story lines. As entertaining as his first novel was, this one is more humorous, more developed, and altogether a romp of a read. This is subtle comedy though, so don’t expect any slapstick or shtick. Please, make sure your brain is up and running before you open the cover.
A big part of the humour comes from a cast that any improv group would die to have on stage. Each character’s eccentricities are allowed to shine through the action. Like is content to let each character develop in its own time, as the story spins out. They all have their faults, but their redeeming qualities emerge; a combination that will win the reader over completely.
If, somehow, you aren’t moved by the characters, the plot will keep you entwined and zooming through A Bowl of Fruit, A Whale In the Woods. On every page, you can sense the pleasure Like felt while creating the outlandish locations, strange inhabitants, and motivations for his human and non-human company. Some things are just plain fun for the writer and the audience; you can’t have a bad time with such a book. Or such an author.
Like has a talent for looking at our world and seeing the possibilities — good and bad — for a very different Earth. His easy, understated narration forms the background for the bizarre performances of his characters, and lets the thread of the story play out with seamless ease. A quiet voice like that is perhaps the hardest style to perfect, but Like continues to have been born with the ability.
If you are relying on Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and other established author for your humour, it’s time to find something new. You could not ask for better than the works of Russel Like to expand your horizons. And make your jaws hurt from laughing.