Stout by Taylor Small

Stout by Taylor Small Review

When I was looking for a new book to read, I just couldn’t find anything. All the books that I saw didn’t appeal to me, everything was a bit serious and grimdark all of a sudden.

But then I remembered reddit user ASIC_SP, who appears to read about a zillion books a week. So I messaged them and they suggested this book, telling me that they think I’d like it a lot (they had previously reviewed my own book).

Turns out, I really did.

What It’s About

It’s about a dwarf, who grew up hearing stories about his father’s heroic adventures, but who is now a part-time criminal and general low-life living in the dark of the undercity.

As these things go, he gets swept up into an adventure, and you can probably guess all that happens next. Characters get redeemed, he finds out who he really is etc.

But the real joy of this book was the delivery.

What I Liked

This is a funny book. And I mean funny like Airplane/Flying High. There’s almost a constant stream of humor in parts. Some of it is a little hit or miss, but you’re guaranteed to have fun reading it.

It comes across very much like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett’s humor. British, maybe? So it leans into the ridiculous quite heavily, so I suppose if you’re more of a dry whit then this book wouldn’t be for you.

It’s also a short book, and I love short books. There’s a surprising amount of world-building in this story, even if quite a lot of that world-building is around humor (angry, partially sentient potatoes for example). Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of proper world-building (‘proper’ for want of a better word), with a pantheon and explanation for how the material plane of the world is constructed.

Like all good books, this world-building all comes into play with meaning. Even the sentient potatoes. This is a little unlike, at least early, Pratchett, in that these jokes, while seemingly ridiculous and pointless, do circle back to the rest of the plot and come together. It was actually quite interesting to slowly see how all the funny bits served a larger purpose than just to be funny.

Not a lot of authors can do that consistently.

The plot itself was about what you want for a humorous book. Meaning, you don’t want it to try and do anything exciting or new, because you’re reading for the funnies, no need to get bogged down in a convoluted storyline. There were serious, touching moments scattered throughout, which when interspersed with much laughter, really made them stand out.

Speaking of which, there is a B-plot to this book as well, something I’ve never managed to do for myself successfully (at least yet). Like a good episode of Seinfeld, this B-plot wraps back into the main one to give a satisfying ending. (actually there’s a few B-plots that are all resolved).

The opening was fantastic. Really sucked me in right away.

So overall, it’s a very satisfying book, even without the humor.

What I Didn’t Like

Maybe I’m old? Maybe limited third person perspective is out the door? This book jumps around from head to head all the time. You’ll be in the thoughts of one character, then the thoughts of the next within the same paragraph.

After you’re initially oriented in Taylor’s style, it’s not confusing or anything. It’s just a personal preference of mine that the writer stays in one set of thoughts for a scene. Subjective opinion.

There’s some clunky sentences here and there, but not often. I did pick up on a number of spelling mistakes. Not outrageous mistakes, things like “oath” instead of “path” that a spellcheck wouldn’t pick up, but a careful writer should have. It doesn’t take away from the book, but I’m quite practiced at reading over mistakes (like my own riddled works).

For a story with a lot of humor, there is a bit of a scattergun approach. Lots of jokes didn’t stick, but that’s okay, because there were so many that did.

Final Thoughts

It’s rare to find a genuinely funny book that has a solid story buried within it.

Here’s a link to it on Amazon