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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
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By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Hocking, Ian: Proper Job

  Amazon  

4 stars

Seventeen-year-old Andy Carrick is spending the summer before he goes off (maybe) to college ineptly wooing a girl from his past and working--often ineptly as well--alongside his friends Doogie and Old Boy. (The latter is so named because--shades of Seinfeld's Mulva episode--Andy didn't catch his name when they first met and had too soon "passed that conversational Rubicon beyond which it is simply no longer cricket to re-enquire what your new friend is called.") In their quest to hold down a job for more than a day without getting fired, the trio find themselves in increasingly unlikely, often quite dangerous situations. The bulk of the story has to do with their stint as ice cream men, a more hazardous profession, apparently, than most of us would assume going in.

As usual, Hocking's prose is crisp and clever (see my review of his Déjà Vu and Flashback):

"His hair was a dandelion of grey, each hair statically repelled from its neighbour."

"Then he sprinted into the building with the desperate scramble of a father who has left his infant daughter in a receding taxi."

It is also very English, which is to say that the occasional sentence may leave American readers baffled:

"I nodded to indicate that, indeed, I was still at the crease, and any googlie Big Jeff sent my way would dispatched to silly mid-off in short order."

Cricket, that, I gather.

The story proceeds at a breakneck pace, with amusing scenes piled on one another. But I would have preferred to take things a bit more slowly, with more time to linger on the characters and perhaps even the romance side of things: the book is more about the working than the wooing, it turns out. That said, I enjoyed seeing this romantic comedy side of Hocking and would like to see more should he take a break from sci fi in future.

[Disclaimer: since reading Hocking's novel Déjà Vu I have become virtually friendly with the author, and so am not entirely un-biased.]

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