Comic Fantasy Review: The Forty First Wink by James Walley

As promised, we've got a double-barreled review today - two perspectives, with some very different aspects that appealed, but a unanimous recommendation. Donald has graciously agreed to kick things off with an introduction to the book, and then I'll take it from here . . .

The Forty First Wink is an outside reality of one man's mind. A journey of laughs, and almost every child's worst nightmare - clowns.

Marty thinks he has woken up, but his journey has just begun, with a cast of likable characters that take on a fight with clowns upon the sea and in the streets. Offers a rip roaring journey that will have you flying through pages.

James Walley's concept of a dream state is very interesting. Clowns and pirates have never been better.

(as posted by Donald on Goodreads)


Douglas Adams. Grant Morrison. Dr. Seuss. Terry Pratchett. Those four names right there, found in the cover blurb for The Forty First Wink, are what initially caught my interest . . . and what had me so cautious about diving into James Walley's world. If he could live up to that literary legacy, then Walley would have a sure-fire winner on his hands, but were he to stumble even a little . . . well, those are some lofty expectations under which to be crushed.

As it turns out, they are all fair comparisons. This was a fun, imaginative, laugh-out-loud novel that lagged a bit in the middle, as the initial novelty wore off, but which redeemed itself with a madcap climax.

What could possibly be worse that waking up with the worst hangover of your life? Try finding out that you haven't really woken up, but that you are instead destined to suffer with that hangover through a sort of waking dream, one populated by a greedy mirror doppelganger, childhood toys come to life, a Giggletastic carnival, and a very demonic clown. Don't worry, it'll all be okay, so long as you can maintain your sense of humor.

What makes this work so well is the contrast of the slapstick elements in the plot, and the subtle humor of the narration. Walley knows what he's writing is funny, and he trusts the reader to laugh along, without trying to force the issue or nudge-nudge, wink-wink his way into your head. The opening chapters are, in fact, very Prachett-esque, leaving you both amused and confused. The story twists and turns a few times throughout, but even when it hits its darkest moments, there's still a throbbing vein of macabre humor to keep it going.

Whether or not The Forty First Wink every achieves the distinction of a true classic remains to be seen, but I suspect Walley is an author we're going to be seeing a lot more of in the future, and I'm looking forward to it. Humorous fantasy is so very difficult to pull off, but I think he's mastered it here.


  1. Good review. Adding to my Goodreads list.

    FYI - You missed an 's' in Seuss.

  2. I can understand your hesitation especially when such iconic names are used as comparisons but I'm glad this was one case where it worked out. Great review, I'm going to be adding this one to my TBR list.
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages


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