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The Unhappy Medium

(The Unhappy Medium #1)

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,666 ratings  ·  211 reviews
Dr Newton Barlow has everything a scientist could ask for – a glittering career both in the lab and on television, a beautiful wife, and best of all, the opportunity to promote his rock-solid certainty that supernatural and religious beliefs are nothing but complete and utter hokum. But Barlow is about to take a tumble. Mired in accusations of fraud, incompetence and malpr ...more
Paperback, 394 pages
Published February 2014
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  1,666 ratings  ·  211 reviews


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Richard Derus
Rating: 3* of five

It was a fun ride, but it went on too long and lost its humorous momentum. The idea of Dr. Newton Barlow, disgraced scientist, as the unhappy medium was a great set-up, but the set-up bits of the book were longer than necessary. This would be a hoot for a TV series idea! Not likely to pick up vol. 2 unless it's free or 99¢.
...more
Emmalg
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Few books take me more than a couple of days to read, this book took about 6 weeks.

Considering the originality, humour, excitement and quality of the majority of the book, I can't understand how it came to pass that there is nothing gripping for several chapters at the beginning. Only the fact I'm a physicist like Newton made me carry on at first, his character really appealed to me.

After two weeks I went on Amazon to check I hadn't been mistaken in seeing a 4* average review and I wasn't alon
...more
Anna
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh my god you are not getting paid by the word! Get to the point!
Anwen
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
I got so far into this book, only to find myself thinking - who cares? So, not for me. Far too facile, far too knowingly humorous, far too reminiscent of college humour of twenty years past. However, I really do think Brown has missed his calling - his depictions of bona fide history were masterly. I seriously think he would be better writing humorous histories for adults. I enjoyed these interludes far more than the rest of the book...
Richard
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This longish novel was a lovely read, and the prose is often rather delicious (and as a Yank I'm probably obligated to also say how very British it seemed). There are lots of frills and brief side-tours that add spice and interest, especially for those readers who like a good rumble around an antique store.

After an eerie little prologue, the story starts waaaay back in the mid-1100s giving obscure historical details that are crucial to the rest of the story, even if it might not seem so at first
...more
Joel Sassone
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Unhappy Medium has everything I look for in a comedic fantasy/SF novel. The protagonist is a skeptic (think Mythbusters, James Randi, Harry Houdini et al) who finds that reality is...not as he had always assumed. Call it supernatural noir with a dash of historical (not to mention prehistorical) fiction for flavor, along the lines of the Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams, the Inferno series by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the Reality Dysfunction series by Peter F. Hamilton, or the Ghost ...more
Lucian Randall
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's one thing to write a funny book - and this is certainly a very funny book - but it's another to weave in advanced science and a far-reaching roam through history and make it all seem necessary to the story. That's the great thing about this book: the obvious joy taken in knowledge and the world itself serves to season a supernatural romp with something altogether mature. It could easily be a series - let's hope it is - and any one of its themes would be enough for most writers. Ambitious, e ...more
crazy-book-lady
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, 2014
A very funny book, in the spirit (pun intended) of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, or the writing of Christopher Moore. Initial chapters set up the various characters, paying off in a rollicking finish as they come together later in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. ...more
Pamela
Jul 18, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
There is a fine line between humor and inanity. This book falls face-first on the wrong side of that line.
Grace Harwood
Aug 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This rambling, overlong tale of a disgraced academic Newton Barlow, who is suddenly offered a new career from beyond the grave as a medium (a very unhappy one at that) just seemed to stretch on and on into eternity (much like the fate of the characters in the book). There was something about another disgraced sales executive, who was possessed by a very disgraced, evil Cardinal and how they all get together for some ritualistic human sacrifice in order to escape purgatory. The act of reading the ...more
Åshild
Jul 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I struggled to get into the story for the first 20% of the book, but ended up really liking it :-)
Samantha McGlasson
While I will agree with some of the other reviews that the writing can feel a little long winded at times, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The concept of a ‘disgraced’ theoretical physicist becoming a medium is not something I have come across before and I really did enjoy the way the author described Purgatory and what can happen after death. I do wish the book contained more interactions between Newton and actual spirits, but apart from that I can’t complain. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a ...more
Lydia
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zara Fennell
Feb 11, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeanne Johnston
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was great fun. Science, skeptics, supernatural, evil corporations, ghosts, bitchy ex wife, sullen teenager, religious fanatics, and a layer of Richard Bach Illusions (and the effortless art of car maintenance), just for starters. Lots of disparate components eventually converged at the end with no loose ends. It was just a wacky blend of unlikely ingredients tied together with a fun story and lots of dry Brit humor, a satisfying conclusion, and an opening for more adventures. If my life was ...more
John
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy British humour, a good mystery mixed with a bit of paranormal, then this is a book for you. You'll do a lot of eye-rolling and grinning, that will have others watching you and doubting your sanity.

I won't give any spoilers, but the book centers around a bad spirit that escapes the confines of Purgatory, and it's up to humans - under the direction of some wacky good ghosts/spirits - to get the bad spirit back to his prison cell in Purgatory. Does that grab you attention?

If you want
...more
Dianna Harrington
There are very few books that I haven't finished, in fact only two in my lifetime. This is one. I just couldn't get past the boring scientific background story before getting to what could have been good. Others have said once you get to the meat of the story it's good. I just couldn't get there. There was nothing to peak my interest to keep turning those pages. I also found no humor in the 5 or so chapters that I read. ...more
Erth
Oct 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
now i am hooked. This was such a great, easy and creative book. i was hooked after the first page.

The characters were easy to fall in love with and follow, along with the story. the author made the mental visions so easy and vivid of the surroundings, humor and the characters actions felt so real.

i would highly recommend this author and this book.
Randy Gardner
Mar 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not "My cup of tea". Rather tedious for my taste. ...more
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
A comic fantasy in the vein of (on the one hand) Terry Pratchett and (on the other) Tom Sharpe, with an admixture of Tom Holt.

Sometime in, approximately, the late 1990s or early 2000s, in the vicinity of London, strange things are happening. Star plastic salesperson Christopher Baxter, a clean freak, finds himself for reasons he cannot explain picking up a filthy hitchhiker in his Lexus, and taking him far out of his (Baxter's) way. The hitchhiker, after being dropped off, finds and destroys the
...more
Flora
An Unexpected Favourite That Has Found A Place In My Heart

Read my full review on my WordPress blog, Flora's Musings...

So, what did I like about it?
Oh, loads! Where do I begin…

T.J. Brown is a new-to-me author and I found his writing style very easy to read. His descriptions, characters and plot development engaged me from the very first page and kept me reading. The first few chapters set up the feel of the story (think Horrible Histories for adults or Discworld irreverence) and I loved the way t
...more
Karolina
Apr 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lise
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, beach-reads
This book is a cartoony romp. Either that works for you or it doesn't.

I found it kind of hard to get into the world on this one. It was fun from the beginning, and the characters who were supposed to be likeable were definitely likeable, but I just couldn't connect for the first quarter of the book. At that point there was a very nice father-daughter scene which pretty much acted as a touchstone for the rest of the story.

My other complaint was the under representation of female characters among
...more
Rebecca
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, satire
I am not profligate with my review stars; I so rarely give out 5 that you'd assume I have to manufacture them one at a time. Not for me the gushing, breathless 5's for something that just barely ruffles the surface with a thrill of plot or ripple of humor, no: It's got to be really clever, intelligent and heavy on irony to earn my full complement of stars and a place on the "favorites" shelf - which T J Brown and The Unhappy Medium have done. Furthermore, I have gone and purchased the novel, and ...more
Lisa
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Newton is a physicist who abhors anything that smacks of the supernatural or unexplainable. Successful at first, things fall apart when he loses the backing of a major company (and his job), is publicly disgraced and his wife divorces him. His already near non-existent relationship with his daughter suffers even more. Trying to get his life back on track, unusual things start to happen, followed by a visit from the ghost of his scientific and kindly uncle-like mentor, Alex. It turns out the high ...more
Lynne
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is certainly an unusual book. The premise is a good vs evil plot with a highly unlikely cast of characters. Science meets the afterlife in a book that tackles capitalism, teenage angst, fame, history, and just plain old bad guys.

Something I appreciate greatly about this book is that the author didn't dumb it down for the reader; he assumes that we readers have the brain power to get the references and understand the science. I enjoy books where I feel the author's personality come through,
...more
Heather
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m well jealous of how clever TJ Brown must be to have so accurately nailed all these different facets of life. He so sharply imitates and lampoons everything from complex physics to what it’s like to be a teenage girl, that I’m certain his understanding of humanity and science and history and the arts fill a well much deeper than the average consciousness.

I’ve knocked this down a star because I'm too deeply in love with writing styles that are less verbose. I'm sort of a Hemingway and Twain g
...more
Tracy
Aug 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unhappy Medium begins with great potential. Mr. Brown knows how to throw readers in medias res, and he has a real skill for full character development. Even to the most minor character readers are exposed to an ever-so-full back story. While humorous to start, even halfway through the novel it seems the plot just begins to take shape. Granted, the skeptical academic whose life goal was to be funded for heinous science from a big corporation and eventually recognized by academia (an in joke f ...more
Phil
May 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a hoot! Suspend your critical faculties and go with the flow on this comedy of errors. It reminded me a bit of Good Omens which was also a hoot.

The basic premise is the adventure that befalls a hapless sceptical academic scientist who through ill fortune suddenly finds himself with the abilities of a medium, which he definitely doesn't believe is possible. The comic book villains and heroes are imaginatively drawn and are a bundle of laughs. It is clear that some of the characters,
...more
Kathie
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unhappy Medium is another fantasy novel dealing with the afterlife, examining a little of what happens after death and the persistence of evil. The protagonist, Dr. Newton Barlow, a hard-nosed scientist, is recruited to work for Purgatory, helping to keep evil from returning to the world. The pacing of the book is slow at first, so it took awhile to be grabbed by the story. Particularly tedious was the long-winded description of the boring entry to Purgatory. However, once the story gets rol ...more
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T J Brown was born in Dorset during the 1960s but was too young to realise how good the decade was meant to be. Instead, he had to make do with the 1970s, which only became interesting towards the end when many, Brown included, started wearing charity-shop clothes and swearing. Conscription into arts school was at this time mandatory and as a result Brown found himself reading German literature, c ...more

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The Unhappy Medium (2 books)
  • The Unhappy Medium 2: Tom Fool: A Supernatural Comedy

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The weather’s getting cooler—here in the northern hemisphere, anyway—and that means time is running out for participants in this year’s...
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“As the old curator walked bow-backed down the High Street towards his small museum, he looked sadly up at the growing number of estate agent signs and narrowed his eyes; everything seemed to be changing. There were no market days anymore. The big supermarkets in Weymouth and Swanage had long since starved out the butcher, baker and greengrocer, while online shopping had comprehensively killed off the antique shop and the second-hand bookstore. The young families had all drifted off to Dorchester and Bournemouth in search of employment and homes in which you could stand upright. Langton Hadlow had begun to die. The” 0 likes
“Five pints later, Newton was wandering aimlessly around north London feeling a mix of euphoria, pointlessness and self-destructive nihilism that only comes from draught lager and/or a sudden unexpected familiarity with the afterlife.” 0 likes
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