What a terrible book. I could probably leave this review at that. It really is just god awful. Anyone who has read Bored of the Rings will not believe this, but this appalling attempt at parody makes that Harvard Lampoon disaster seem like positively scintillating satire.
We start at Hogwash, the school for wizardry (“and witchcrap”) at which Barry Trotter, the most famous wizard in all of wizardom, has been a student for nine years. He and his friend Lon Measley are kept on for publicity purposes, but their tenure is threatened when the headmaster, Bumbledore, informs Barry that, as a result of his revealing the location of Hogwash to the press, vast quantities of Muddles are about to invade to get a glimpse of him. The only solution is to stop the next Barry Trotter movie from being made.
My God, it’s stupid.
Oh, it’s not that there aren’t the occasional funny puns, peculiarities and turns of phrase. The reality of a flight of owls over the dining table (cover everything!), the spoiled brat the grown-up Trotter has become due to his excessive fame, the fact that this book is known by a different title in the US (Barry Trotter and the Unauthorised Parody, to be precise), and the reference to an earlier tome, Barry Trotter and the Philosopher’s Scone, (also known by a different title in the US — Barry Trotter and the Magic Biscuit), are all mildly amusing. The twist in the end isn’t entirely unclever — it was all a dream! — and the evil Lord Valumart, as an example of American commercialization and corruption, is actually kinda valid. (And who doesn’t love a little America-mocking? Especially when done by an American. If nothing else, it’s notable for its rarity.)
But the book itself, the way it’s written and the manner in which it heavy-handedly tackles the “issues” it has decided to raise: absurd. Serious Blech? Shame on you, book!
Now, this burning hatred I feel for this failed send-up has nothing to do with my adoration of J.K. Rowling’s original here, though adore it I do. Parodies, when done right, by the likes of Terry Pratchett or Mel Brooks or the folks at RiffTrax, can be some of the funniest things ever. No matter how much you love something, you not only have to be able to laugh at it, but you want to… as long as what’s being presented is actually funny. Which, this book, withal, is not. About its follow-ons, Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel and Barry Trotter and the Dead Horse, I can only conjecture, because I hardly like to encourage this kind of lunacy through the purchase of yet more lame spoofs. I do have to say, though, I really like the title of one of author Michael Gerber’s alleged other novels, as listed in his credits: Encyclopedia Brown Gets Punched, HARD. That’s even a parody I could probably get behind.
Though Are You There God? It’s Me, Hitler… maybe not so much.
Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody (2004)
Published by Gollancz
Release Date: November 9, 2004
Available in Hardcover, Audio CD (and Cassette!)