The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things By Paul Gamble – Book Review by Emily Elphinstone
It is one thing to suspect that some of the conspiracy theories you hear might be true; it’s quite another to be launched headfirst into that truth after an encounter with an escaped bear. But this is exactly what happens to 12-year-old Jack, the protagonist of The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things.
Jack’s natural curiosity may be a frustration to his parents, but it is one of the key skills necessary for ‘M-SUITs’ employees; leading him to a world of new discoveries after he is initiated into the Ministry by operative Grey. Covert after-school operations have never looked so good (or terrifying.)
The debut novel by writer Paul Gamble, The Ministry of Strange, Unusual and Impossible Things is a rollercoaster ride of excitement and hilarity. Laid out as a ministry handbook, the story comes complete with handy footnotes, and explanatory subsections, documenting ‘Reading Habits of Aquatic Mammals’ (difficult unless the books are laminated), and ‘Storage Options for Pirates’ (can hang on coat rails.) Though this largely adds to the novel, creating a whole world of information that is usually kept secret from the perfectly-normal-general-public; the additional side notes sometimes detract from the central plot, throwing off the rhythm of the reader and slowing down the pace.
Suitable for anyone over the age of 10, Gamble continues the tradition of the Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials, and The Borrowers; by creating a secret world running directly alongside our own. There may be Dinosaurs, Pirates, and a muscle-bound Tooth Fairy; but they must be controlled and contained by the Ministry; and even young agents still have to deal with homework and the threat of forgetting their P.E kits. The fantastical elements are balanced impeccably alongside observations of the mundane; and Gamble, who himself is a civil servant, does a wonderful job of portraying the Ministry’s inevitable struggles with the bureaucracy, statisticians, and paperwork that even secret ministries have to tackle. The novel, like Jack himself, may lose energy in places, but overall it is a joy to read; and if the Ministry surfaces again, it will certainly be something to look forward to.
Out September 1st / ISBN 978–1–910411–54-4 / age 10+