Review: Carpet Diem by Justin Lee Anderson

As a general rule, I like to begin reviews with a brief summary of the story but to be honest, I’ve been sat here for a few moments now and I’m not quite sure where to start with this fast-paced and rather twisted plot. Simon Debovar, a typical rich hermit, awakes one day to hear his broken doorbell ringing and behind that door is a demon and an angel. They’ve come to retrieve his carpet, of course, and settle a bet. When Simon is asked to choose to whom he wants to give the carpet (that’s actually an ancient and intricate yet remarkably well-maintained rug), he is thrown into a wild adventure.

The plot, as I mentioned, is fast-paced and full of so many twists and turns that it might as well be one of those twisty-turny brightly-coloured water slides you get at leisure centres and water parks. You know the ones – they make your head spin a little and you aren’t entirely sure where you are. Those ones. In fact, the plot is so complicated that I wonder whether Anderson himself can work it all out when he tries to think about it logically but – and here’s the big but that makes it all worth it – it works! It’s one of those typical farcical humours that throw you in so many directions and through so many doors that you don’t know whether you are coming or going but actually, in the end, it still all makes sense. Rather clever that, and definitely an enjoyably technique.

The characters, too, are fun. I enjoyed seeing the concepts of God and the Devil, Angels and Demons flipped on their head and the book provided a great take on these spiritual matters. It reminded me somewhat of Tom Holt and his godly characters, as well his quick wit and slightly twisted humour. It may cause offence to the deeply religious but to a self-confessed atheist such as myself, the satire was a hoot. As for the other characters: Harriet, Sean, Simon, Bob (and all the rest of them)…they were a bit of a mixed bag of nutcases (my favourite kind, of course). Simon, I found to be a little stock-characterish, reminding me somewhat of Hitchhiker’s Arthur Dent although not in any particularly memorable or fond way. Simon, in fact, is ultimately forgettable and entirely uninteresting. Faunt, on the other, was entirely believable (even given his propensity to become a deer – no, not dear, deer). In fact, I’d quite like a beer and a game of Yahtzee with him. Harriet too, is someone I’d love to go partying with.

One thing I did notice whilst reading (apart of the numerous formatting and typing errors that kept pulling me out of the story but yes – it’s a flaw we all have, and we and our editors are only human after all) – the one thing I did notice was that I didn’t really care. I enjoyed the book, I laughed out loud, I believed in the unbelievable characters, but I was never driven to get to the end to find out what happens and I didn’t care much for who died and who didn’t (although one death in particular did make me gasp). I never once thought “I’ve got to sit down and read some more” and it didn’t keep me up past my bedtime.

It’s rather a flat book actually – but almost in a good sense, if you know what I mean. There is little depth and I didn’t get emotionally involved and that has the potential to be a bad thing but sometimes, that’s what you want. My own books work on this idea that sometimes, people don’t want depth – they want something light and fun. In fact, that’s what most farce is, isn’t it? And this book definitely slots into the ‘farce’ category quite nicely. Besides, its one big saving grace is that it never proclaims to be anything but that. Right from the outset, you know this book is meant as a bit of fun and that is most definitely what it is.

One the thing I know for certain is that this book is not for everyone (although really, what book is?). If you’re looking for emotional depth, if you’re looking for hidden meanings, if perhaps you take religious satire offensively, then move on. If, however, you are looking for riotous humour and lots (and lots) of laughs, if you’re looking for bright and unusual characters with whom you’ll want to make friends, and if you’re looking for a trippy and twisty tale for a light and enjoyable read after a long day’s work, Carpet Diem is most definitely for you! From tiny giggles to full-frontal laughs, this book will have you guffawing all the way to bed – and that is never a bad thing!

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