Book Review: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie - Header

Hugh Laurie went from quirky British treasure to international superstar thanks to House MD. A programme into which I fell completely. I rowed every episode and still, to this day, have a complete soft spot for the characters, actors and anything related to it. It’s therefore, unsurprising, that I have an unfaltering faith in Hugh Laurie as a result, if he suggesting jumping, I take note and look to see if he’s dictated how high.

It’s this interest in his celebrity endorsement that firstly lead me to read The Night Manager by John Le Carré, a book I must admit I hated, but it was while putting together my review of it for this blog that I discovered that Laurie, has in fact, written his own tale of fiction – The Gun Seller. And so, with blind, and untainted faith, I put it in the “to read” pile of my ebook collection and waited for it to reach the top.

Hugh Laurie (Jeeves & Wooster) - The Gun Seller

I knew nothing about it as I started to read apart from the title. I don’t really dip my toe into the water with book reviews or free samples, I just dive straight in and see what I find. Sometimes it works and the book proves brilliant, others I sit bored for 150 pages before the spark arrives, and occasionally it never does. This time though, I noticed the first “review”. The open lines stating that you should read the book as though spoken by Laurie’s true British accent, rather than his latter House Americanism. This comment got stuck in my head, sadly, destroying the opening chapters.

The reason for this and my biggest problem is that the book is written with a real sense of irony, sarcasm and joviality ingrained within. Every paragraph seems pushed one sentence further than needed to allow Laurie to shoe horn a witty comparison or humorous punch line. To begin with this was OK, but when you realise that it’s the tone the entire book is going to take it fast becomes tiring and went even further by breaking any chance I had of making a connection with the book, or it’s story.

This reliance on a funny meant there was no emotional punch. It never reached out and grabbed me. I never felt anything because everything is finished by a joke. The characters were all just names described by throw away similes and their lives a narration of pastel colour. It’s impossible to truly see the story because nothing seems real. Sounds, smells, the day to day realities of life all plastered over by one attempt at a laugh after another. Part of me wants to explain how this could be viewed as though the entire book is nervous. How it’s the literacy form of uncomfortable, making light of everything with jokes to attempt to hide that it, or maybe Laurie, feels out of it’s depth. But the book doesn’t feel nervous, it feels composed and constructed, just belittled to the seriousness of the tale it wants to tell.

Storytelling - The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

The best way I can describe is is to say that I spent a long time reading the book thinking that it was nothing more than an anecdote. I could see a man in a bar, surrounded by his peers, laughing as he recounts this tale, hamming it up and over emphasising it’s importance. I never felt involved in their world or invited it. I was just a pair of ears listening to a man brag about a tale beyond fantasy and I just never felt at ease with the story or the book as a result.

And that is so annoying because, essentially The Gun Seller is a political/military thriller that should be riveting. Twisting and turning. It plot should place it alongside Carré’s The Night Manager, Flemming’s Bond franchise or The Dogs Of War by Frederick Forsyth from simply the books I’ve read, and sadly it falls completely against any of them. The Gun Seller just lacks the depth or clarity to even come close to feeling real. It’s simplistic in design and ultimately hard to follow, jumping from idea to idea in an attempt to move the story forward without ever stopping to see how the bigger picture is going together. It’s not a muddled story, it’s not slow and I was never confused but it’s all just a bit too condensed and superficial. I would have preferred less joking and slightly longer looking below the surface into the characters and story. It all just feels a bit rushed and a bit loose. It needed to stop, draw me in and get my heart racing. I needed to feel in danger and I never did.

A Vision Of Fire - Gillian Anderson

I can’t saying that I am actually disappointed by the book because I didn’t go in with any overly inflated expectation. A Vision Of Fire by Gillian Anderson had shown that talents don’t always cross borders and that had set me up to half expect Laurie’s effort to fall short as well. I hadn’t expected it to be as limp as it is, but I am moving on simply happy to have read it and added it to the “read” pile. Ultimately, if you are a fan of Hugh Laurie then just read it. It’s fun, not great but carries just enough to keep you going. If on the other hand you’re simply a fan of thrillers, about guns and governments, I’d look elsewhere because there are far better tales sitting back on the book shelf.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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