The Soddit by A.R.R.R. Roberts (aka Adam Roberts)
Published by Gollancz. New edition 20th September 2012.
ISBN: 978 0 575 11940 6
Review by Mark Yon.
It may have come to your attention that on the 20th September 2012 it was the 75th anniversary of the publication of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and in particular Bilbo Baggins. Others may be aware of the impending premiere of Peter Jackson’s film version (or at least the first part) in December.
This is, according to the front cover, ‘Absolutely NOT the tie-in to the major films of Tolkien’s classic novel’, though readers who have read The Hobbit may be aware of some aspects of this tale. Mind you, the cover also has written across the top, ‘If we likess it, then we putss a ring on it …’ which may give you an indication of the humour therein.
The Soddit tells the tale of Bingo ‘Sac’ Grabbins, the titular soddit. Happy with his life in Hobbld-Ahoy! at Grab End, he is sitting on his comfortable sofa when he is disturbed by the arrival of a wizard, Gandef, the ancient magician who is hard-of-hearing.
When dwarves Gofur, Failin, Tori, On, Mori, Ston, Wombl and King Thorri also arrive at Bingo’s home, with at least one with a deliberately over-emphasised regional accent, Gandef persuades Bingo to go on an adventure quest to raid the legendary treasure hoard of Smug, the dragon. On their journey to Smug’s lair through the Minty Mountains they meet a variety of different types of elves, trollps, Gobblins and Sollum, a humourless little man, whose Thing(R) created by the Evil Sharon comes into Bingo’s possession…
By now you’ve pretty much got an idea of how it goes, and probably an idea of whether you would enjoy this book or not. A book which, it might be worth mentioning, on its original publication in 2003, sold over 150 000 copies and was a London Sunday Times bestseller.
150 000 book buyers can’t be wrong. Surely? Well, as if you didn’t work it out from the above, it is very silly, and like all ‘humorous’ books of this nature, some will find it hilarious whilst others will be distinctly unmoved, nay, disdainful of its efforts to entertain. Professor Roberts (no, really!) at Royal Holloway, London University never misses a chance to set up and run with a gag here, and, as you might expect, if one doesn’t quite work for you there’s another along a few sentences later to try again. There is actually some semblance of an intelligent mind at work behind all this tomfoolery, though some may be hard-pressed to see it. These books usually work best with a degree of rational thought behind them, and as a Tolkien Scholar Prof. Roberts has an understanding of the mythology.
Do you need to read ‘the original’ before attempting The Soddit? Well, yes. You can actually easily work it out most of it as you go along, though there are jokes that you may only ‘get’ with an idea of Tolkien’s version. I must admit I was tempted to go and find a copy of ‘the original’, on which this is not based, remember, to re-read afterwards. Some of the ‘jokes’ may be better followed after a recent reading of Tolkien’s version, I suspect. Which can only be a good thing.
A book for the inner-teenager, or an actual teenager you know, The Soddit will amuse, annoy and entertain many a reader. And if nothing else, you can probably have it read in the time you are waiting in the queue for the movie in December.
Now: where’s my copy of Bored of the Rings gone….. ?
Mark Yon, September 2012