Review: “The Claus Effect,” David Nickle and Karl Schroeder

Pros: So much fun; so creative!
Cons: Starts out a little rough
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

David Nickle and Karl Schroeder’s The Claus Effect combines a short story called “The Toy Mill” set in 1983, and a book called “The Clause Effect” set in 1991. In “The Toy Mill,” which is a prelude to “The Claus Effect,” eight-year-old Emily corners Santa and wishes to be one of his elves. He turns her into an elf and brings her to the North Pole, where she discovers that the reason she never gets what she wants for Christmas is because no one actually reads the letters sent to Santa. She convinces the Claus to start reading the letters, and in the first letter a boy wishes for his sister to be dead. Claus, who apparently hates children, decides that the best way to handle Christmas this year would be to give children Exactly. What. They. Want. “The Claus Effect” takes place eight years later. Emily is back home and working as a security guard for a store. Meanwhile, Cadet Lieutenant Neil Nyman, who’s stationed in the arctic, finds a mysterious device buried in the snow, and accidentally stumbles upon a meeting in which the Pentagon’s Christmas list is delivered to the Claus. Emily and Neil each end up captured by elves, and soon they find that they’re the only things standing between the Claus and the destruction of the world as they know it!

At first the back-and-forth between 1983 and 1991 is a bit confusing, and the narrative starts out a little uneven and rocky. I started off thinking this book would end up with a 3 out of 5. But it quickly turned into one of the more absorbing and hilarious books I’ve read in a while, and I stayed up late to finish it off.

Santa Claus is… I can’t even begin to describe him. He makes exclamations like “By the Devil’s flaming anus!”, is more than a little deranged, and is seriously dangerous to all of mankind. His elves and reindeer are terrified of him. He’s downright creepy. We eventually get to find out how he came into being, and it’s quite fascinating. It’s due to Mrs. Claus’s intervention that he ever ended up with a good reputation, or made children happy in any way. And thanks to Emily’s unknowing interference, that’s all been squashed.

The elves are fantastic. They’re largely incompetent, in absolutely hilarious ways. They’re also exceedingly well-armed! I was impressed when the Browning 50-cal came out, and that’s nothing next to Claus’s ICBMs. There’s a ton of shootouts in here, and plenty of action scenes. There are spies, military actions, chase scenes with explosives and guns on trains… you name it, it probably happens.

The side characters have a lot of personality, even those who only show up for a handful of pages. One of my favorites was “It’s okay if you don’t laugh at my joke” Heinrich, one of the Germans working with Krampus. (Yes, he shows up too!) Krampus is the one who tells Emily the story of how he and the Claus came to be.

I feel a bit inadequate to the task of explaining just how hilarious and creepy and all-around wonderful this book is. It suffices to say that if you’re looking for a weird holiday read and interested in blowing up the North Pole, this one’s for you!

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