The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, Tom Holt

“Ho, ho, ho?” Then he grinned, ear to ear. “He’s back,”

When the Supreme Being and his son decide that being supreme isn’t for them any more, it’s inevitable that things get a bit of a shake-up. It soon becomes apparent that our new owners, the Venturi brothers, have a very different perspective on all sorts of things. Take Good and Evil, for example. For them, it’s an outdated concept that never worked particularly well in the first place.
Unfortunately, the sudden disappearance of right and wrong, while welcomed by some, raises certain concerns amongst those still attached to the previous team’s management style. In particular, there’s one of the old gods who didn’t move out with the others. A reclusive chap, he lives somewhere up north, and only a handful even believe in him. But he’s watching. And he really does need to know if you’ve been naughty or nice.
* * * 
3 / 5

When I first laid eyes upon the cover of The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, I thought it was one of those slightly weird self-help books. You know the kind, the Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Worker, or How To Get Rich Quick, and Sell Your Soul To The Devil That Is Capitalism kind of book. Obviously, this is intentional, and the content of The Management Style of the Supreme Beings is every bit as weird as its cover. 

He could hear music. It might have been a chorus of angels inside his head, but it was probably the phone playing Vivaldi. It didn’t matter. He was through. Please hold, the voice repeated. LIke a man with his fingertips hooked over the threshold of Heaven, he held

We have a varied cast of characters ranging from God and Jay and God’s second and lesser son Kevin, to Jersey the well-mocked Indiana Jones archetype, to Bernie who runs Hell when ol’ Lucifer just wants a day off. With respect to female characters we have Jenny, who I didn’t really understand but I think she’s a robot, and Lucy, who works the godly Helpline.
In terms of plot, let me set the scene: we have Earth, functioning as usual under the hand of God, who having vanquished all the lesser gods (except for one…) and ruled for millennia, decides that he’s getting a bit too old for this nonsense. What he really wants to do is retire and go fishing for multi-dimensional fish with his son; so he puts Earth up for sale and who snaps it up but the Venturi brothers? The moment the papers are signed and sealed and a dubious legal promise is made, Good and Evil are thrown out the window in favour of a monetised system.

BEHOLD, HE COMPILES A CATALOGUE. TWICE HE PERUSES IT. SURELY HE WILL IN DUE COURSE ASCERTAIN THE VIRTUOUS ONE AND THE EVILDOER. 

I’ve never really read anything like The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, so it’s wacky and mishmash plot was novel and funny, but as the book went on it did feel too drawn-out, with about 100 pages to go, and the ridiculousness of it stopped being funny. It also didn’t feel focused enough; I assume the main “point of the book was to provide some gentle religious critique, but it was also trying to uproot and overturn common adventure film clichés – like action girl sidekick becomes man’s “prize” at end – and our typical conceptions of Santa. It was all too muddled, like we were swimming around in the author’s thoughts of “could do this, oh wait, could do that, oh my isn’t that a great idea”.
I also wasn’t particularly impressed by the ending. It wasn’t clever or subversive or even satisfying; I had lots of questions like what happened to Jenny? What happened to Hell as an amusement park? Holt had loads of great ideas that I would have loved the book to tie up but it just sort of ended. I will definitely read more of Holt’s books, probably by borrowing them from the library, because it was amusing and refreshing.   

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