The Moose Paradox is the middle instalment of Antti Tuomainen’s YouMeFun trilogy, explaining what happens when a walking abacus takes over an adventure park with an undisciplined staff team and gangster opposition. It delivers what we’ve come to know and love from a Tuomainen novel: a love of the mundane and everyday, expressed through plot and world view that is surreal and absurd. It’s subversive, very funny and oddly poignant.
In the previous novel, The Rabbit Factor, Henri Koskinen has had to bring the adventure park back from the dead. This time, Tuomainen provides a major new character to be Henri’s foil. Neither Henri or our new friend is likeable by our usual standards: one is exact, calculating (mathematically) and has an eye to the long term, the other is messy, calculating (emotionally) and causes scrapes left right and centre. In theory, we can contrast the effectiveness of the good mathematical life. In reality, we stick by Henri out of a sense of loyalty and fairness: Henri didn’t deserve the attempts on his life, and he seems genuinely to have an eye to the welfare of his motley crew of coworkers. And we could hardly root instead for the takeover sharks and scary but ineffective gangsters.
The adventure park itself is a place for Tuomainen’s imagination to run riot, with unlikely rides lovingly described. My inner ten year old would love to experience the Moose Chute, the Crocodile Canyon not so much. The idea of necking ice creams before the children are let loose on dramatic slides is unlikely to be picked up and emulated at Alton Towers.
The Tuomainen paradox is that Henri Koskinen is an unlikely hero. He is so convinced in the beauty and joy of mathematics that he almost forgets the possibility of pleasures of the heart. Yet Tuomainen makes us care deeply about what happens to him and his ludicrous adventure park. Henri is up against the limits of what mathematics can teach him: he rails a little at those limitations and it isn’t clear that he recognises that a different approach may pay the dividends he thinks that he so scrupulously and accurately calculates. Actuarial sciences include an understanding of people that is beyond a formula, and here Henri is on thin ice. As a result, his blossoming affair with Laura Helanto has scope for wonder, occasional slapstick and a number of wildly smutty jokes. (David Hackston has surely had a moose of a time in the translation suite.) Indeed, taking the book as a whole, what happens is so unlikely that it would be borderline uninsurable: another paradox, surely.
We’re set up for what we hope will be a triumphal final instalment in which the opposite of an everyman battles unlikely forces in the name of the everyday. The Moose Paradox is tremendous fun: disorderly and uncontrollable. Unlike the children on the Crocodile Canyon ride, readers of this book are guaranteed enjoyment.
Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy.
You may also like our coverage of the other books by Antti Tuomainen:
This review was slightly updated on 29 October 2022, after it was suggested that the original post contained a major spoiler.