When Milligan Clodthorpe, gentleman arachnid, accepts an invitation to stay with his cousin Gertrude at the fabulous estate known as Newbury Towers (but only after she's promised that terrifying Uncle Angus isn't in residence) he really couldn't predict what he'd let himself in for.
Things don’t start well- Uncle Angus arrives unexpectedly and tries to hunt Milligan down with a shotgun, and then Milli’s body gets hijacked by a feckless scoundrel called Bainbridge, which means Milli wakes up inside a far more primitive human model, while Bainbridge runs riot inside Milligan’s skin. The only way Milli can even begin to track Bainbridge down and rescue his stolen form is by joining an elite arachnid Special Forces unit with a zero percent survival rate. And (as if that wasn't bad enough), Bainbridge is about to marry a human, so even if Milligan can recover his body, heaven knows the state it will be in when he finds it.
Michael Coolwood’s bio mentions that he's a fan of P.G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams, and even if I hadn't read the bio before starting the book, those inspirations wouldn't have been hard to guess. Yet despite the unmistakeable similarities in style, and a few ideas like downloading minds into unsuspecting new bodies at the flick of an emergency brain evacuation switch, that are worthy of the Hitchhikers Guide, Confessions has a cool wit and a unique voice all of its own. Milligan Clodthorpe is a marvellous character - pompous, self-deluded and a little bit of a posh idiot but in all other respects a thoroughly spiffing arachnid, and he’s accompanied by a fantastically colourful cast of characters, including a manservant called Forsythe who isn't beyond a little bit of kidnapping and terrorising when the occasion demands it, a family friend who looks like a walking coffin and a mad relative who leads an interstellar battle fleet and, in what must be a nod to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Milligan even finds time to take in a very exotic burlesque show involving performers who actually put on more clothes than they started off with.
This is an elegantly written and extremely funny slice of surrealist fantasy from a writer who obviously loves the genre and has the ability to turn even giant spiders into sympathetic comic characters. Arachnophobes and arach-not-phobes rejoice! This is a darn entertaining read, no matter how many legs you’ve got!
CONFESSIONS OF A GENTLEMAN ARACHNID / AUTHOR: MICHAEL COOLWOOD / PUBLISHER: MONTAG PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW