The Cambridge List – Robert Clear

I bought this on a whim, because it’s about Greek gods (I’m a sucker for anything with Greek mythology, no matter how odd it looks) and Cambridge and it looked a bit… well… mental, really. In the good way. I couldn’t help myself. And it only cost 77p.

It was definitely worth it. And it pretty much came up good for how it seemed on Amazon. I think “mental” will be the adjective that sticks with me about it, but it was also pretty funny. And a fun read. It was not the best-written book I’ve ever come across, and I feel genuinely sorry to be saying that, because I enjoyed it so much, but it isn’t. There was something indefinable that was slightly… off. I can’t really put words around it. I’d almost want to say it felt a little amateur, but that sounds much harsher than I intend. Maybe “not completely polished” is fair. That’s about as close as I can get.

But I did love it. And “love” is definitely the right word. Part of that was, of course, seeing the world where I’ve spent the last four years in print (ish) right there on the page (screen). Some parts of the book involve the faculty and faculty building that’s a couple of hundred metres from where I sit now, and the rest is set in the town I spend my life in, so there was that lovely electric jolt of “oooh! I’ve been there!” all the way through the book. Add to that the fact that I could have sworn that one of the characters is modeled on one of the current professors (I won’t name him, because that would be mean, especially given how the character is portrayed in the book, but any Classicist from Cambridge would spot it immediately), and I couldn’t help but be sold. It is now really bugging me as to whether he is or not. Because the internet is a wonderful tool for indulging obsession, I looked up the author’s website, and it says that he did indeed do Classics here, and is currently 29. So he graduated about eight years ago, or somewhere around there. So he probably /did/ know the professor… so it may well be. Yes, this has been bugging me the entire time. I may have actually emailed the author to ask…

But back to the book. If I hadn’t been at Cambridge and tied to the Classics Faculty, I suspect I wouldn’t have loved it so much. It would have just been a slightly strange book. A good one, but not an amazing one. I would still recommend it, but without a Cambridge background, I think a lot of what gets said would be lost on people, or worse, not be spotted for the caricature it is. The way the Classics fellows talk about the “plebeians” is a /caricature/ of Cambridge folk, whatever the tabloid press would like to think, and the wrong person reading it might be inclined to think the author is representing a Cambridge reality. And while there is the whole town/gown divide, it’s very much caricatured in the book. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not crediting the random passer by with enough good sense. But either way, some of the comments would be lost on people who haven’t been through the same system, which is a shame, because it is genuinely witty about some parts of Cambridge life. But even without that knowledge, I think I would still have found it a good book because the story is well laid-out, the characters work well together and you can’t help but dislike them all, as their flaws are laid bare, and even the gods are shown to be petty, mean and selfish. But it’s a knowing dislike. They’re not distant, so as you can’t relate to them. Their flaws are real and familiar and dealt with in a darkly humorous way, so it works.

I’m not sure I’d recommend it. I think I would, but I’m not sure. /I/ love it, and the right sort of other person could love it too, but this is very much a book whose readers need to be compatible, and willing to love it for the right reasons, and ignore the things that aren’t quite as excellent.

I think it counts as Urban Fantasy, but I’m not really certain. It’s a little… un-classify-able. It doesn’t /feel/ like Urban Fantasy. I’ll put it down as misc., mostly out of laziness, I think.


About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
This entry was posted in All, Fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Cambridge List – Robert Clear

  1. Hmmmm. At 77p and set in Cambridge sounds good … do you think I’d like it?

    • readerofelse says:

      Possibly… for 77p, it’s worth trying, certainly. But you have to be willing to forgive it a few of the flaws. I dunno… I’d certainly recommend you try it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s