A Very Scalzi Christmas – ARC review

Author: John Scalzi
Publication date: December 1, 2019
Genre: short stories, humor
My rating: 4/5 stars

If you want a stocking-stuffer guaranteed to produce roughly an hour or two of amusement and giggles for any of your family members, this book is for you. At just 144 pages, this is a quick read that will feel even quicker because you’re just enjoying it so much. Because this is a mini book, I think it’s fitting to give it just a mini-review, so here’s what you need to know:

John Scalzi has written a lot of humorous pieces about Christmas, and here, he has decided to gather them all in one place. Interspersed between the wacky and satirical narratives are “interviews” with Christmas-related figures, including Santa’s lawyer, Santa’s reindeer wrangler, the Christmas Bunny (a franchise of the same group that owns the Easter Bunny), and the nativity innkeeper, as well as some quick lists including “The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time” and “A Personal Top 10 of Things That Are Not Titles to Christmas Songs and/or Lifetime Holiday Movies and Honestly I Don’t Understand Why.” Nothing is off-limits, and he lambastes both the religious and the commercial elements of the holiday season, creating a wickedly funny treat of a book that is just plain fun, without being too silly. Well, okay, sometimes it’s pretty silly.

“Santa doesn’t judge people for their kinks, but he does expect them to pay for them.”

As a whole, Scalzi’s writing is witty and highly readable. From absurd premises, he manages to wring both heart and humor, and it kept me emotionally engaged on every page. I do have to give him credit for including one particular tale near the end of the collection, entitled “Sarah’s Sister,” that was less about making jokes and more about love, capturing a child’s feelings of both joy and sorrow when a new sibling is about to enter their life, with a dash of a Christmas miracle.

Plus, the stories and interviews are filled with delightful lines like this one, on a certain Christmas carol:

Davis’ archives at Wellesley College feature early drafts entitled “Little Trumpet Boy,” “Little Ocarina Boy,” “Little Digeridoo Boy,” “Little Mime Boy,” “Little Public Relations Intern Boy,” “Little Gastroenterologist Boy,” and “Little Kid Who Just Wandered By and Was Confusingly Pushed Into a Barn Boy.”

Or this one, on Jesus being born in a manger:

“And then someone says, look, the animals, they are adoring the baby. And I say, adoring, hell. They’re wondering why there’s a baby in their food.”

Quick blurbs on each title, for your benefit…

Science Fictional Thanksgiving Grace – hilarious (and oddly specific) list of sci-fi horrors that we can thank God for not causing to happen this year. Definitely one of my favorites in this collection.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say that moistening aliens was not on the agenda for any of us at this table. Thank you, Lord, for sparing us that duty.”

A Bitter November – the month of November personified, telling us how it really feels about December. (Hint: it’s not very happy.)

Christmas in July – when Santa shows up early, the government has to get involved. Because, you know, Christmas and national security go hand in hand.

Jackie Jones and Melrose Mandy – honestly the weakest point of this book. It’s sort of in rhyme but the meter doesn’t always work, and it’s cute I guess, but feels kind of cliche. Not too funny, but not too heartwarming either.

Jangle the Elf Grants Wishes – the elf who fulfills abstract wishes tends to forget that actions have consequences…

Script Notes on The Birth of Jesus – think of all the ways people could obnoxiously commercialize a film about the classic biblical story. Now multiply by a thousand, and then run that concept through the mind of a young marketing intern, and you get this story.

Sarah’s Sister – static electricity, babies, and miracles. Actually a really touching tale.

Resolutions for the New Year: A Bullet Point List – I love when a bunch of lists can tell a complete narrative, and in this one, Scalzi nails it. Also, dammit Chuck.

In short:

Do your loved ones a favor: get them a gift they’re sure to love (and more likely to read, since it’s pretty short!). Get them this book.

Thank you to Subterranean Press for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

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