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The Sellamillion

by ARRR Roberts

(Gollancz, £6.99, 283 pages, small format hardback, published 23 September 2004.)

Review by John Toon

cover scanOf course, you've all read Tolkien's well-known background epic The Silmarillion, haven't you? Hmm. Well, maybe not. Tell you what, those of you who have read it may as well skip to the next paragraph, and the rest of us will catch the pair of you up in a minute. Because at least part of the joke of The Sellamillion is that, even though Tolkien's oeuvre is now a money-spinning engine of cyclopean proportions, it's not as if any beggar's read anything past The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion is just not the most tempting doorstep-sized book out there, that's all, especially since Peter Jackson turned the one significant and exciting bit of it into about five minutes of film flashback. Harsh but fair, people, harsh but fair. So in sending it up and adding another pocket parody to his CV, Adam Roberts has not only spoofed the story proper (at some length, albeit a blessed sight less than the original), but has wisely added in a variety of much shorter hit-and-run pieces, so readers need not have read the original work to appreciate at least some of material here within.

People who've read The Soddit and the Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings will know what to expect of the bulk of The Sellamillion; people who haven't might think of it as something like a French and Saunders sketch sustained for about 240 pages. Brevity being the soul of wit, the History of the Sellami outstays its welcome somewhat, although it does have its moments. The chapters dealing with the Coming of various races into the land of the Elves are priceless, and there's a certain amount of fun to be had from Sharon, formerly Dark Lord, now the stare-out champion of Upper Middle Earth.

But it's the shorter pieces that really satisfy, if only because they're not obliged to stick around after the punchline. A jolly prologue outlines for us the correspondence between ARRR Roberts and C John Lewis, the author of a series of fantastically subtle Christian allegories; meanwhile, at the back of the book, you can find thirty-odd pages of spin-off material including a stage musical for Tom Bombadil, and an early version of the main saga that revolves around a pair of ancient magic earrings. Finally, right at the very end, there's a pleasingly cheeky dig at another best-selling author of epic fantasy.

The Sellamillion is an ideal Christmas stocking filler--or it would be, if we hadn't just had Christmas. But don't let that stop you--there's always next Christmas to consider. Or possibly Easter.

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