This review is part of my judging effort for the SPSFC. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.
Team Space Lasagna’s fifth-week selection included Planet B, the “complete” edition, by Micheal Beadley. Not his real name. His real name, according to the hilarious preface, is too similar to other authors’ names and might also identify him to the micro-managing psychopaths he previously worked a day job with. Other authors should take note of Beadley’s prefacing style. When you’re introducing first-time readers to your story, you don’t want to coddle the big babies into it like you’re sitting around at a goddamn pyjama party. You set the whole lot of it on fire and fling it into their faces like a declaration of war.
Okay. Oh boy, where to start with this one…
In the beginning of the 22nd century, life seemed good for humanity. The problems of global warming in the early 21st century, Islamic terrorism etc only existed in the past.
– Planet B, an excerpt.
Planet B is a very earnest sci-fi adventure story with genuine wit and imagination behind it. And you know there’s a ‘but’ coming, so let’s just get it out there. The story … needs some work under the hood. Or ‘bonnet’ as we UK English folks say.
Some work with an editor. Some more experience at the nuts and bolts of storytelling and writing. Some more time put into the post-production and release. I mean … look at the cover(s) we ended up with. There are sequels, and they seem even more rushed.
This seems to be the actual cover for Planet B II. Points for the self-awarded 5 star rating, though. Beadley’s got some stones.
This all said, I had fun reading it. It was challenging, but I’m damn good at what I do. I learned some interesting facts (for example, the etymology of the word tank, which was a cover to hide its actual purpose … I’m not saying it’s new or obscure information, but I didn’t know it) and had a few laughs along the way.
The delightful Britishness of it was heartwarming. It’s like this book was written by Arthur Dent, if he had never managed to befriend an alien and his house had been bulldozed just before his planet was demolished, but he’d had time to write a book in between. The existence of cricket doubles and the fact that Spaceballs references still happen in the future makes me happy. The concept of termite cities was great! The Sons of Al Qaeda, eh, not so much. But what can you do.
I laughed aloud at the fact the Uglies (aliens) showed up at Earth and destroyed Bath (in the UK!), specifically. I laughed at the mental image of the invincible Captain (or possibly Commander) Hilton punching out a big alien cat. I laughed at “three Uglies or one polar bear” as a measure of deadliness. I thrilled at the giant alien narwhal on ichthyosaur action and was glad to hear the baby narwhal was okay even though there really wasn’t any plot-supported reason for us to be so reassured. I enjoyed the way the story was told through switching perspectives to cover the action, and appreciated the way each shift was signposted – especially since a certain amount of the story was written in the first person, which could have gotten confusing.
Excessive use of commas took us into unsettling territory somewhere beyond James T. Kirk. Like I said, some editing work is needed on this book.
Bloody Hell. Alright, let’s consult the meters.
A little bit of sex, a bit of old fashioned sleaze, some standard rapiness but nothing too explicit or gross. It wasn’t an integral part of the story and for the most part the relationships and character interactions were innocuous and nicely folded into the story. Two very tall and drunk space jocks who won’t take no for an answer out of a possible same thing but there’s no Scorpion to beat their arses. I don’t know. It was fine.
We get plenty of action, fights and battles and brutality – but it’s not overwhelming, and is only there to serve the story. I call this a good balance and think it shows decent instincts for crafting a high-paced and high-stakes story. Two flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.
There was plenty of WTF crammed into this book, and I am happy to report that most of it came from the imaginative setting and history even if a certain amount also came from the chaotic, borderline bizarro style in which the book was written. Humanity’s madcap history of colonisation, invasion, genetic tampering and military misadventure made for a dizzying backdrop against which this tale took place. Still, I wouldn’t call it genuine surrealist WTF, so much as … look, I’m giving this three Uglies and a polar bear out of a possible Captain Hilton punching three Uglies and a polar bear while riding a giant alien narwhal. I will not be answering further questions at this time.
My Final Verdict
Planet B reads like an early draft that was rushed to production because the author was unable to bear another day working for such a bunch of disgusting evil micro-managing morons. And while I’m fortunate enough to not share such an experience, I can certainly appreciate the sentiment. Sometimes a story just has to be told. Still, I’m going to have to leave Planet B with two stars on the Amazon / Goodreads scale on its technical merits.