Audiobook Review: What In God’s Name by Simon Rich

13 09 2012

What In God’s Name by Simon Rich

Read by Simon Rich

Hachette Audio

Length: 4 Hrs 21 Min

Genre: Humor, Fiction

Quick Thoughts: What In God’s Name isn’t going to change your life, or send you into fits of literary rapture. What it will do is give you a few solid hours of goofy fun, and maybe even give you some characters that you care about. It is the literary equivalent to a slapstick comedy that surprisingly manages to touch you just a little bit.

Grade: B+

I have a lot of literary obsessions. Those of you who read my reviews will see lot of reviews about zombies and the apocalypse, but I also enjoy books with courtroom scenes, books that explore alien exogenesis, and books where normal everyday people are transported to strange worlds. Of course, as a scifi guys, I enjoy time travel, deep space exploration and genetics. Yet, one of the more interesting reading obsessions I have is with God and Christian mythology. Over the past year, I have read at least three books that take you on a Dante-esque tour of hell, and enjoyed all of them immensely. Yet, it seems some of the stranger books I have read are about God as a character. I grew up with this very dogmatic, Old Testament vision of God as some Victorian old white dude sitting on the throne telling us we mustn’t curse, kiss girls before we’re married or sacrifice animals to Golden Calves. I think that every time I see a book giving an alternate vision of God, particularly one that is satirical, mayhaps even a bit sacrilegious I just have to read it. I’m not sure if I look for these novels as some sort of rebellion against the vision of God I had growing up, or if it’s because I have a basically sarcastic, and mayhaps, sacrilegious sense of humor. What in God’s Name is written by comedian and former SNL writer Simon Rich, who was the youngest writer to ever work on this show. That had little to do with my decisions to choose it, because I hadn’t really heard of him before choosing this book. What did influence my decisions was the vision of God as the frustrated CEO of Heaving Inc, ready to downsize Earth from existence.

Craig is the most dedicated Angel of Heaven, Inc working in the miracles department. He takes recent transfer Eliza under his wing, showing her the ins and outs of the department. Yet, when a frustrated Eliza discovers God has little interest in they work they are doing, mostly concentrating of Sporting evens and trying to get Lynyrd Skynyrd back together, she calls him out on it. God, who has been frustrated with the lack of good PR on earth takes what Eliza says to heart and decides on a solution. It’s time to end the Earth project, schedule it for demolition and open an Asian Fusion restaurant. Yet, he makes a deal with them, if they could answer one prayer successfully in the next month, he will stop the destruction of the earth. Craig and Eliza choose what seems like an easy one, getting two people, Sam Katz and Laura Potts together both of whom have prayed for it. What seems simple becomes more complicated as they discover Sam and Laura may be the most romantically inept people ever. I had a heck of a lot of fun with What In God’s Name. I’m not sure what you would call this novel, a heavenly comedy, a mad cap allegory, or Pre-apocalyptic awkward romance, and I don’t really care. It was just full of goofy fun. Now, if you take yourself, and your vision of God too seriously, you might have trouble with the bumbling, sports obsessed vision of a goofy God, but I loved every moment of it. Heck, I was having so mug fun with this story, I even began cheering for the romance, and, "looks around to make sure no one is listening* maybe even got a bit touched. Rich has filled his story with a plethora of socially awkward yet entirely engaging characters that you want to see happy, and not all blown up. His depiction of Heaven as a repetitively bureaucratic Company will delight anyone who ever worked a job. Particularly a job that does things a certain way, because it’s always been done that way. What In God’s Name isn’t going to change your life, or send you into fits of literary rapture. What it will do is give you a few solid hours of goofy fun, and maybe even give you some characters that you care about. It is the literary equivalent to a slapstick comedy that surprisingly, manages to touch you just a little bit.

Authors, I have a bit of advice for you. I know you know how to read. I know that you may have a pleasant voice, and may have done a bit of acting in your life. This doesn’t mean you should read your own book. Simon Rich reads What In God’s Name, and this is exactly what you get, the author reading his novel. It’s pleasant, and listenable, but it is simply a reading. There really wasn’t any cringe worthy moments. I never felt annoyed by the reading or wanted to drill holes into my scalp and reach in with pliers to pull his voice from my head, like some other author read audiobooks. It was well produced and nice. But it could have been Amazing. This material was ripe for an Amazing reading by a professional narrator with good comic timing and a wide range of authentic character voices. What In God’s Name could have been an awesomesauce, squeal worthy audiobook production that I would have been forced to steal as many of the new fangled words kids are using to describe very good things on the internet, to label it with. Instead, it’s kinda nice. Authors, you want your audiobooks to be AMAZEBALLS. Not kinda nice.

Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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