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This is a stupidly funny book. After getting it from a charity shop I wasn't sure what it would be like but it is one of the mopst amusing books I have ever read. It is based in a future world where there is a law banning employers from discriminating against employees based on their incompetence. So anyone can do any job, no matter how awful they are at it and what problems they have. This leads to many very amusing complications. The main character is a secret detective and it is him that you follow as he tries to keep himself out of the way of the local police - fails, gets involved in an assassination, starts running, and all the while he has a local policeman with anger management issues hot on his tail, while trying to escape what appears to be a hired killer.
Rob Grant is an exceptional writer who can make just about anyone howl with laughter, this is a book which has gone the full rounds of all my friends, family and even people who I vaguely know. If you see a copy in a book store - buy it!
I became aware of Rob Grant after reading a DooYoo review of his book 'Fat' - it sounded right up my street, so I got it from BookMooch and thought it was absolutely hilarious. The other week I noticed that there was a copy of another of his books "Incompetence" available, so I mooched that too! Published in 2003, this is Rob Grant's third novel.
Rob Grant was born in Salford, and is most famous for co-creating, writing and producing (with Doug Naylor) Red Dwarf. His other books are 'Backwards' (a Red Dwarf book), 'Colony', and most recently, 'Fat'. You can find a bit more about him here - www.imdb.com/name/nm0335621
The story is set somewhere "in the far too near future" (quite scarily so), in a world where Europe is united and it seems to be virtually impossible to find a pair of shoes which aren't made of vegetable matter - leather is just out of the question. The world is a place where 'No person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, at any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompitence" (yes, my spelling is deliberate). And it seems that everyone is completely incompetent!
The first sentence set me off laughing, and I knew then that it was going to be a good read:
"The flight was uneventful enough, except the pilot accidentally touched down at a slightly wrong airport and forgot to lower the landing gear, so we left the plane by way of the emergency chute, and I lost my shoes." (page 1)
Harry Salt (his core ID, but also known as Cardew Vascular and Harry Tequilla) is an undercover investigator for Europol, a sort of policing agency. He communicates with two other agents only by means of cryptic messages in personal columns in various publications. It is unheard of for the agents to meet face-to-face, so when Harry is summoned to meet Dick Klingferm in Rome, he knows that something is up. When Harry (finally) arrives in Rome he finds that there has been an elevator accident (the lift went up to floor 33 when there were only 17 floors in the building) he knows straight away that Klingferm is one of the victims.
The characters are hilarious, from Captain Zuccho who has anger containment problems, the police officer with NSS (Non-Specific Stupidity), and the perverted Dr Rutter, to Hinton Wheeler - the prisoner who hasn't been accused of a crime so has been left in the holding cells wearing the same underpants for 3 and a half years (yummy!), and Mamma and her dead husband who lives in the shed. Harry Salt is the only person who is not incompetent, and I really felt his frustration as he encounters problem after problem as he tries to make his way to Vienna following a trail that Klingferm has left him.
So much in the story rings true to modern life - mobile phones, instruction manuals, party planners, public transport and the fun (and frustration) of buying a rail ticket. Basically this is a politically correct world....but political correctness has got so ridiculous....everything has to be done by the book to the extent that in actual fact nothing ever gets done. It sounds a bit like my place of work in many ways.
Some of the situations are somewhat bizarre and slightly beyond the realms of possibility, and these are generally the laugh-out-loud moments. I had to explain to hubby that I was laughing because Harry had just eaten a bowl of 'mission man broth'. Then there's the whole train incident, and not to mention the 107 year old male bunny offering to lap dance.
Nothing I can say will really do justice to this book. It's listed as Science Fiction, but I've never really seen myself as a science fiction lover, aside from Douglas Adams. It's also a political story, and I have to say I'm not particularly interested in politics. Grant seems to have got the world summed up pretty well, and it's quite worrying when you think about it. But, as they say, if you don't laugh, you'll cry.
---Will I like the book---
If you like authors such as Ben Elton, Douglas Adams and Andrew Holmes then this book is for you. If you like traditional British black humour, then give it a go!
The book is 291 pages and can be found on Amazon for £5.49.
This book is written by Rob Grant and is absolutely hilarious. It is set in a Europe where no one can be sacked for doing a bad job. There are shades of Ben Elton in the satirical way that this book is written. So as well as all the normal ways that people cannot be discriminated against, race, religio, gender there is also now competence added to the list.
The main character in the book is Detective Harry Salt who when the book opens is on route to meet a contact in Italy, the opening pages give you an insight into life in the new incompetent Europe when the plane lands at the wrong airport and the pilot does not lower the landing gear. Part of the humour in this is that the passengers just accept this as being quite normal. When Salt finally arrives he finds that his contact is dead and so the best lead he had in an investigation looking at the poisoning of some politicians at a dinner is now dead also. It turns out that the one person who does not appear to be incompetent is the killer Salt is hunting.
This book is a biting satire on a world gone mad with beaurocracy and people who are no good at their jobs, it is also a bit of a nightmare world to live in as well as nothing ever really gets done and people situations are often hopeless.
There are parts of this book that will have you laughing out loud and others that will have you shuddering with aprehension. The writin style is fast paced and this has been one of the funniest reads I have had for a good few months.
About the author:
Rob Grant is best known as co-creator of the cult show Red Dwarf, as well as writing various other comedy shows. Incompetence is his second novel.
At some point in the not to distant future in the United States of Europe, the following article is passed:
"Article 13199 of the Pan European Constitution: 'No Person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, at any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompitence" (sic)
Thus it is not possible to sack someone for not being any good at their job anymore. Detective Harry Salt (to give just one of his alias) is actually quite competent but must deal with endless ineptitude in order to do his job, and this time the murderer he is trying to track down is also very competent. The book takes us (and Harry) to Rome (via the wrong airport as the pilot got lost), Paris and Vienna on the trace of this rather efficient killer. On his way Harry will meet an armed police chief with anger management issues, a mortician with an unusual hobby and various staggering levels of beaurocracy.
In parts the book is funny, but it is very much a one-joke book and accounts of some of Harry's altercations with officialdom and other incompetents can be a bit laborious, you are wishing the author would just get on with the story as we have already established the character is a bit of an idiot. There are no deep characters here, we don't really get to know Harry or anyone he comes into contact with on anything more than a superficial level; it is not that type of book. The book is a comedy book and though mainly is witty and amusing I did not find it laugh out loud funny as others have (maybe it is me - I liked Red Dwarf but wasn't as fanatical as some)! I have read funnier and more original works. By the end this book is almost a pastiche of itself, although I suspect that may be intentional. The book is very easy to read though. Apart from some frustrating and long-winded pages involving various imbeciles or officialdom that take a long time to resolve, the book runs at a cracking pace. There is not much dialogue but the story is told from Harry's perspective. Grant seems to try and make the murder solving as part of the book, but it is almost a sub-plot rather than an integral part. I didn't guess who the perpetrator was but then I didn't try, I didn't think of it as important, I was more interested in what particular type of idiot Harry would come across next. The imaginative crimes really are excuses for Harry's adventures in trying to travel across Europe in shoes made of vegetables.
Did I enjoy it? Mostly yes. As I have already said, it is not the funniest book I have read, although it is amusing generally. Some parts of the book can be as frustrating to read as they supposedly were for Harry Salt to endure, but he is ficticious. It is easy to read but will never be classified as a classic.
The book was first published by BCA in 2003 and has an RRP of £6.99 but there are offers available on both Amazon and Play.
No matter what your political views on the question of Europe one thing is certain, after reading this novel by Rob Grant you would be firmly in the no camp, in fact you would be so far to the right of the no camp you would be in danger of being in the no no camp and we all know that two negatives make a positive. The only exception to this rule would be if you were the sort of person who was totally useless at their job, the sort of person who would bring a whole new meaning to the word inept, someone who is in fact incompetent at their job. Then you would definitely be in the yes camp, you would relish the fact that your job with Network Rail was safe and you would be confident in your ability to rise to the highest political office in the land.
In the United States of Europe Article 13199 of the Pan-European Constitution states that No person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, at any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompetence Nirvana, you cannot be sacked for being bad at your job, in fact it is an accepted way of life.
The story opens with the paragraph The flight was uneventful enough, except the pilot accidentally touched down at a slightly wrong airport and forgot to lower the landing gear, so we left the plane by way of the landing chute and I lost my shoes Welcome to the world of Detective Harry Salt who works in secret for the European security authorities. Working within a cell system he only has contact with two other agents, when out of the blue he is summoned to a face-to-face meeting with one of them in Rome he begins the hunt for a killer that takes him on a dangerous and frustrating journey across Europe.
He arrives too late to meet his contact, who unfortunately got into a lift and opted for the 33rd floor, unfortunately there were only 18 floors in the building and the lift did an impressive impersonation of the Apollo space probe before descending to earth. His contact Kingferm was investigating the death of a number of famous people including politicians who were poisoned at a dinner function. Now in a Europe where incompetence is a way of life trying to track down the cause of this is almost impossible indeed the four reports on the matter failed to agree on any of the vents including the date of the dinner.
In such a climate a competent killer can work completely anonymously and it is this that Salt has to battle against.
Rob Grant has produced a funny and engrossing novel, it is not really a detective story as each chapter sees Salt experiencing one set back after another without ever really finding any clues, the scenario of a Europe riddled with incompetence allows the author to introduce some great characters such as the Italian police officer with anger management problems and the waiter with turets syndrome.
The reader is also drawn into some nightmare situations such as the legal assistant who is downsized by his company while visiting a prisoner in jail and is unable to leave the prison as his pass no longer works however as he was not arrested in the first place no one recognises the fact that he is actually in prison therefore he has no sentence to serve and no hope of release. Whilst reading this book you cannot fail to share some of the frustrations that Salt encounters especially as he is pretty good at his job he just never gets the chance to show it. All of this in a Europe where shoes are made from dried vegetable skins.
Whilst in no way is this a page turner I would recommend it as an entertaining read, it has some very funny moments and at times the style of humour reminded me of a Ben Elton novel, and at 290 pages it will take a couple of days to read. Rob Grant has also had two other novels published, Colony and Backwards however it is his writing on Red Dwarf for which he is most famous.
The rrp for the hardback version is £9.99 however I bought it a couple of months ago for £6.99 from Amazon. You can now pick it up in paperback for £3.99 from Amazon or from £2.40 used.
Hope you enjoyed my review and I hope you have a prosperous new year.
I decided at the start of this year that it was time for my reading habits to change slightly. Looking at my book case there are quite a few books but there are really only 4 authors. So whilst on a trip to Waterstones I came across a new book by Rob Grant. I was only really familiar with him from his work on Red Dwarf, but something about Incompetence really appealed to me. The book is set in the future, where Europe has united to become one large State. The only problem is everyone is incompetent. No one is any good at their jobs, no one except Det Harry Salt that is. He works for a European policing body called Europol and has travelled to Rome to meet up with one of his contacts, a man known as Klingferm. After his plane has crash landed at the wrong airport in a different country Harry finally arrives at the meet slightly later than planned. There has however been a major act of incompetence and an external elevator on an office building has flown off and crashed to the ground. One of the occupants of the elevator had been Kilngferm. Harry doesn?t think it was an accident though and starts to look a little deeper. His contact Klingferm is dead and seems to have left a trail leading to Vienna. However Harry has a few things standing in his way. From Captain Zuccho with his Anger Containment problems to Hotel switch boards which all seem to ring through to the same hotel restaurant in Rome. Harry is determined to find out what happened to Kilngferm though and sets about keeping the appointment in Vienna, but it wont be easy. The book relies a lot on moments of Black Comedy, which are quite subtle. It doesn?t keep you laughing throughout but does keep a smile on your face as you read it. There are a few laugh out loud moments thou
gh and a lot of giggle inducing moments. These both hold the interest in the book, which will keep you reading on and make it impossible to put the book down. Apart from the main character we don?t really find out much about any of the others in the book. Each additional character is described simply by what manner of incompetence they suffer from. Although Zuccho makes the odd appearance here and there none of the supporting characters have much of a part to play apart from their one or two paragraphs. This is another feature that really helps to keep the book moving nicely. The lead character has multiple personalities. I don?t mean that he talks to himself or anything like that. He has numerous different aliases and we never actually find out if Harry Salt is his real name. Although it would have been nice to have a little more character development I felt that the kind of story it is doesn?t really support a need for anymore. Parts of the plot do seem a tad far fetched but these moments are generally the funnier parts of the book. The story is good though and really holds the interest, with the comical moments really keeping the book interesting. I found that this book was a little bit like the Red Dwarf novel Backwards, also written by Grant. This is his third novel and although I haven?t read Colony yet it certainly is on my list to read in the future. I would recommend this book to anyone who liked Red Dwarf. I?ve also heard a lot of people compare Grant?s work to Douglas Adams, but as I?ve only read one of Adam?s books I don?t really feel in a position to compare the two. It?ll keep you smiling throughout and with quite a light hearted nature is an easy and enjoyable read.
"Article 13199 of the Pan-European Constitution: 'No person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, t any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompetence'" It's the near future and Europe is united. Cardew Vascular is on his way to a meeting in Rome, arranged by a man called Dick Klingferm. From the very start, the real world consequences of Article 13199 are very apparent. It seems that nothing is ever done correctly and that incompetence is, well, acceptable. By the end of the first page, Vascular's plane has crash landed due to the pilot forgetting or being unable to lower the undercarriage, the plane has touched down at the wrong airport (and in the wrong country), his luggage has been lost, he's saved a fortune on taxi fares because the cabbie forgot to charge him for a three hour journey, he's been checked into a hotel room which doesn't have a bed and the internal phone system only connects to the restaurant. Cardew Vascular is not just an ordinary businessman, though. He's a spy-detective hybrid character; a member of a secret organisation and Klingferm is a colleague of his. Arriving late at the rendezvous, he discovers that there's been an accident and as a result, Klingferm is dead. Was it an accident or was it murder dressed as incompetence? Why did Klingferm find it necessary to arrange a face to face meeting when that alone was a highly suspicious event? More importantly, what was Klingferm working on that was so important he was killed? Vascular tries to put the pieces together and the investigation leads him across Europe on the trail of a psychotic killer who may, in a curious twist, actually be on Vascular's trail. Incompetence is really a comedy of sorts. As a whodunit, it's not the most complicated mystery in the world, and I had most of it figured out well before the end. Incompetence is more about the ride to the conclusion.
The encounters with the myriad of characters that simply wouldn't be doing the jobs that they are doing when encountered by Cardew Vascular (or Harry Salt or Harry Tequila or any of his other aliases within the book) are what it's all about. The run-ins with the Italian police officer with 'anger containment problems', the hotel guest liaison with 'sexually inappropriate response' and the flight ticket sale clerk with 'attention deficit issues' are practically characters in themselves, and it's these which provide most of the black humour in the book. You don't really get a chance to know the characters in the book as the story only visits each location briefly apart from the narrator of the story (and we never even learn his real name). Those characters who do appear to get more story-time are basically reduced to whatever incompetence disorder they may have, and the lack of characterisation may be a surprise to those who would expect more from one of the co-creators of Red Dwarf. In terms of style, I have to say that I think that Grant's work is very reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams, and that's not a bad thing. The observations and ludicrous nature of the experiences of the central character are all Adams-like, and with Douglas Adams' sad demise, this can only be welcomed. Overall, I like this book. I suspect that part of the attraction is the similarity to Douglas Adams, but it's a good idea wrapped in a decent plot with plenty of humour throughout. I wouldn't say that it was laugh out loud funny, but the humour is more of that knowing wink type stuff and will make you smile and giggle. If you're a Red Dwarf or Douglas Adams fan, then you're going to like this a lot. If you're not, this is still worth a look if you like black humour. Publisher: Gollancz ISBN: 0575074493 Price: £6.99