Writing is hard, writing comedy is harder, I think even harder than stand up comedy. The stand up comedian has the immediate feedback of audience reaction. He or she can tailor their material, shuffle the gags and decide if something needs to be cut. The writer of comedy sends their work beyond a veil and, beta-readers apart, gets feedback only once the work is complete, the jokes all told, the bid for funny made.
In my review of "Apocalypse Cow" I thought the humour a little strained with the effort of walking the borderline between ha ha and peculiar
"The Outsorcerer's Apprentice" by Tom Holt is another book that tries on the Terry Pratchett mantle of real world satire in a fantasy setting. However in Holt's work the links between reality and fantasy are more explicit than the chuckle inducing cross-references of the Discworld novels. This is a book revelling in a multiverse of parallel worlds with reality exploiting and distorting fantasy for the baldest of economic advantage.
That is the central joke of the book, the ultimate in outsourcing, forget call centres in Mumbai and sweatshops in Bangladesh, let's exploit a low paid fantasy workforce of elves, dwarves and goblins.
It's an interesting and clever idea and it sustains a lot of narrative thread. But a book needs more than one funny idea to sustain the reader interest. There are some smile inducing characters and some clever lines. Personally I liked "The other one when pulled is a campanological delight" For most of my reading I veered between thinking 3 stars and 4 stars.
The story was what kept me reading, the old questions of What will happen next? When will these two people meet up? Who is the strange man in a flat cap? Why would a unicorn do that? What is it with wolves and tea sets?
The story is the thing, and in the end I felt the story was just a bit messy for my taste. A tangled ball of interesting and colourful wool more than a fully knitted article. So I settled on three stars, I liked it but in the end I thought that there were too many loose ends that the story tripped over in its eagerness to cleverly amuse. .