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Love in the Time of Fridges
Tim Scott
Bantam Spectra, 365 pages

Love in the Time of Fridges
Tim Scott
Tim Scott graduated from Cambridge University, England, and decided to use his education to work a plasterer, decorator and delivery driver. He writing career began with a training video which warned office staff that falling over could be dangerous. He then went on to write and appear on BBC Radio 4 in around fifty comedy half hours -- and finally ended up being given his own late night comedy television series on network ITV.

He has written a large number of children's books, and also for children's television. More recently, he became a television director and, in 2003, won a BAFTA for co writing and directing a children's series, "Ripley and Scuff," for the BBC.

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SF Site Review: Love in the Time of Fridges

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A review by Rob Kane

Love in the Time of Fridges is billed as a "Sci-fi thriller (of Sorts)" and a "Hilarious yet poignant novel of love, loss, and fugitive appliances." How could anyone not want to read a book described as such?

The story revolves around Huckleberry Lindbergh, an ex-cop from the city of New Seattle who returns to the city after an eight year absence to find that things are not as they seemed before. As he adjusts to this new city, he gets involved with a mysterious woman and a gang of talking, (semi-)intelligent fridges she is taking to safety. Or rather, a gang of fridges and a spin dryer. His involvement with the woman, Nena, gets him on the wrong side of the law as he helps unearth a vast conspiracy that threatens New Seattle.

When I picked up this novel, I was expecting something really interesting; perhaps a kind of serious thriller with a little quirkiness thrown in through fridges. The anthropomorphic fridge plot element doesn't fail to deliver on quirkiness and humour. The fridges are cute. Really, really cute. They babble inanely about their contents, sing silly songs, and generally act silly and simple. Which for a fridge, is cute.

Where the book falls flat is its characters. Most of the story is told in first person through the eyes of Huck. Huck himself is a reasonably normal, intelligent, sane character. He's more than slightly bland and generic though. He has lost his way and interest in life, and his trip back to New Seattle was an attempt of his to rekindle his spark. Apart from that plot line, though, there doesn't seem to be much to him. As a reader I certainly never got to like or sympathize with his character. A handful of other key characters, including Nena, suffer from the same deficiency. They seem hollow and impossible to really care about.

While a handful of the key characters are fairly normal, if bland, almost all of minor characters in the book act in the same silly fashion as the fridges. They're all impossibly silly and stupid. It's like a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett novel where everything is just crazy. Except, whereas the bizarre nature seems normal and appropriate for other stories, I found it impossible to suspend my disbelief enough to appreciate and find it funny in this book. It's more like a kind of bad stand-up routine in the "Hey, what about those...." vein. It seems like the author wants to poke fun at various things and so sets up characters to satirize his target. But it just seems very blunt, and the jokes fall flat more often than not. It doesn't help that since the majority of the book is told first person. Huck's disdain for the people he meets comes across as the author's disdain, and so it lends a negative light to the humour.

From office workers who are incapable of operating a document destroyer to graduate students studying the effects of coughing in Victorian literature to pastry shops that whine about their toupee, it all just seems ridiculously set-up. I kept reading hoping that the grand conspiracy was that there was something that was making people stupid. It wouldn't necessarily have made the jokes any funnier, but might at least have put them in a context where they would have made sense. That didn't happen.

The main target of the satire in the book is the need that societies abdicate freedoms for a feeling of safety. The New Seattle Health and Safety department is fictional government branch that tries to exert control over every aspect of citizens's lives in the name of safety, and is the process of a secret scheme to expand its power. I get the impression that author may have intended a conspiracy involving the Health and Safety department to explain away the silliness of the characters, but if so it didn't work. Instead, the whole main plot line is just as over the top as the characters.

I picked up this book with high hopes, as it sounded like just the thing I might enjoy. I found it failed to live up to expectations. It wasn't necessarily a horrible book -- it did pick up slightly towards the end -- but I got little enjoyment from it. Humour is highly subjective, so maybe other readers will find it a laugh riot.

Copyright © 2008 Rob Kane

Robert learned to read with a litle help from Lloyd Alexander, and he hasn't stopped reading fantasy since then. No matter how busy life gets he can always find time for a good book.

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