“Do you like it?”

“Pays for my beer and cable. Usually.”

His attitude annoyed her. She was stuck in a world of drudgery and more drudgery with a little slogging and grinding thrown in on occasion. Maybe the world he lived in was much the same, but at least it had dragons in it.

Yesterday my good mate Brian travelled up to Belfast to represent me at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. I was thrilled to learn I was a finalist in two categories ‘Best Arts and Culture Blog’ and ‘Best Newcomer’. On the night unfortunately I was not successful, but it was an honour to rank among all of the other nominees, so a big thank you to the judges who voted for me in the run-up to the finals and an even bigger thanks to Brian, who did me such a big favour trekking up there on my behalf. Cheers mate.

At any rate, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up this afternoon. Enter A. Lee Martinez stage left.

Judy is stuck in a dead end job at the a local supermarket, with no career prospects, education, or any future plans at all. Then one night during the night shift she finds a yeti eating all the ice-cream in the store cooler. Surprisingly she does not run out of the Food Plus Mart screaming. In fact she even notices the snowman is not partial to vanilla. Not being able to think of anything else, Judy rings pest control. Her second surprise of the night comes when the phone operator does not hang up thinking it’s a prank call. Instead a blue-skinned man with a magic baseball bat and a talking origami shapeshifting gnome arrive and dispatch, humanely, the yetis in the supermarket.

Afterwards, Judy completely forgets everything that happened.

However, the universe won’t let her forget. More strange paranormal events occur, that bring her together with the ‘cryptobiological rescue agent’, who goes by the name Monster. Neither of them are thrilled by their encounters, although Judy at least can slip into blissful forgetfulness after an hour or so. As an ‘incognisant’, she is just another ordinary member of the public who is unaware of the various monsters, chimerae and ‘paranormal immigrants’ that share this plane of reality with humans. Monster and his gnome partner, Chester,  permanently alter Judy’s perception when the increasingly violent encounters with trolls in her apartment, goat-men and walrus-dogs point to her being the locus of powerful forces.

I have never read anything by Martinez before, but this is something I will soon remedy – this is very funny stuff, similar to Tom Holt with an equally comic tone throughout. Monster’s domestic arrangement with girlfriend Liz is a source of a lot of comedy. She cooks dinner, keeps their home clean and enjoys having regular sex. In the cons column, she smells of brimstone, may at any given time decide to eat Monster’s soul and she’s a succubus who insists on having regular sex. Chester, a being from a higher dimension, has a habit of condescending to his gruff partner, referring to him as a fickle piece of protoplasm, but also acts as his conscience. Their bickering relationship is quite humourous and helps to broaden Monster’s character, so he doesn’t seem like such a jerk. I fell in love with Chester when he mocked Judy for insisting that she is not a ‘muggle‘.

Martinez’s ‘everything and the kitchen sink’, approach to mythology surprisingly does not overwhelm the plot. Partly this is due to Monster’s worldweary attitude to his job. Even in the face of the end of the universe, he still sees it as more hassle than its worth for him to have to deal with it. The other reason is due to the themes of the novel. Martinez introduces the notion that simply living from day to day – as Judy does with her dead-end job and Monster with his unrewarding, if very physical, relationship to Liz – is not enough, that a person should concentrate on what makes them happy.

If you don’t a goat-man will land in your bath-tub and eat all your Cheeze Whiz.

A funny novel with plenty of surprises, great fun.