This review is part of my judging effort for SPSFC2. For a little intro to the whole thing and an explanation of my judging style, see this practice review.
Let’s take a moment to sit and quietly appreciate this next SPSFC contender. I’m talking about a little story named Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage: A Funny Science Fiction Comedy Book, Galaxy Cruise – Complete Series Book 1, by Your Old Pal Marcus Alexander Hart. Yes, that’s what it says on the box. Someone likes their SEO and being everyone’s old pal, I guess.
This hilarious and action-packed ride into absolute sci-fi imaginative mayhem opens with a bunch of aliens doing human (or “American” as they call it) karaoke. It is, in short, perfection.
Humanity escaped the dying Earth in an assortment of ships, their occupants in cryogenic suspension. Most of them were lost or destroyed, and one – the ship launched from the USA – meandered off into space and was picked up four thousand years later by representatives of a strange alien union. They arrived at their own preconceptions of what these odd mammals were like based on their fragmented computer archives, then thawed out the actual people and put them on a refugee moon they called Eaglehaven.
Fast forward (I’m not sure how many, I think I missed it) years or generations. Our hero, Leo MacGavin, is an unwilling Dave Listeresque / Arthur Dentian space adventurer, stuck in a role he’s not happy with and looking forward to getting back to his home. At first I was puzzled because his job seemed amazingly fun and exciting, but yeah, no – all the aliens he’s forced to deal with are awful and the rest of humanity are right to not have any interest in leaving their new atmosphere. And humans are hysterically misunderstood and held in hilariously low regard.
I can really do no better than to copy-paste Hart’s own summary, which nails every single reference and homage I otherwise would have pointed out, and a couple I would have missed:
Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage is a hilarious science fiction comedy adventure for readers who love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Space Team. And moviegoers who love Galaxy Quest, Spaceballs, and Guardians of the Galaxy. And TV watchers who love Red Dwarf, Futurama, and The Orville. And people who basically just want to see The Love Boat on a spaceship.
Yes. There was also a Jurassic Park joke in there that should be acknowledged. And the cat people being from the planet Gellico is just *chef’s kiss*.
Leo is quickly flung into the thick of things as he is adopted by a Ba’lux human (American) fetishist. The Ba’lux are basically a highly technological and advanced race of evil aliens who rule the “union” into which the humans of Eaglehaven have been dropped. And when Leo is dragged into a bet between competing Ba’lux executives, he quickly ends up in an impossible situation. He has to captain a luxury starship, crewed by aliens who hate him and filled with tourists who think he’s a pet, on a vacation cruise – and if the cruise fails, his homeworld will be covered in poops.
It’s simple, it’s hilarious, and it’s the plot of this book.
This is a comedy, it is colourful and surreal, and it is crammed with outlandish aliens the likes of which I have been starved in this Star Trek dominated “aliens look like humans with alterations according to makeup budget” landscape. It is in no way sacrilegious to put this story in the same breath as Hitchhiker’s Guide. It’s valid. Valid, I say.
But let’s look past the jokes, because some readers (and a fucking exhausting number of critics) are so stuffy and serious and grimdark these days. Is there more to this story than just slapstick action, hyper-colourful wacky aliens, hilarious dialogue and entertaining sci-fi adventure scenarios? I know, there doesn’t need to be any more than that. That is more than enough. But is there?
Yes. Yes there is. The stakes are real. The xenophobia, the unfairness, the cultural blindness and hypocrisy and self-righteousness, is perfectly balanced and the humour of it is a perfect way to make the medicine go down. The lampshading of planetary single-culture homogeneity we see in most sci-fi is flawless. And the characters, though cartoonish, have complex personalities and motivations. You could not ask for a deeper study of cultural appropriation, the fetishisation of the exotic, and the well-meaning yet harmful attitudes that exist at the far end of the xenophobia and supremacy scale. Not while also making you laugh. The closing exposition was so hilariously drawn-out, but so perfectly weighted and paced, I was left in awe.
Sometimes a story is good enough to make you think. But if you don’t want to think, then it’s a rare story that can still be good on that level. And there are absolutely hidden depths to this book that you will only appreciate on a second reading. I could not recommend it more, and I’m going to add the sequels to my to-read pile just as soon as I can. There’s a whole-arse series, and I may have to get them in paperback.
At last, we get interspecies rumpy pumpy between a sexy cat girl and a hot houseplant (that is a quarter catnip on her mother’s side). Bless this man and every moment he spends with his hands on the keyboard. This book scores a James T. Kirk out of a possible Charlie Kirk on the sex-o-meter.
For a book that is a comedy at heart and a light-hearted adventure first, second and third, there is a decent amount of violence and gore. Yes, most of the grossness is just in the lurid descriptions of the aliens, and a lot of the violence is comedic slapstick, but there’s a very real sense of the danger – Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage gets two quivering flesh-gobbets out of a possible five.
I mean … the Waylade Tour Fleet’s initialism is literally “WTF”, and they talk about it a lot. And all these aliens! So many questions. Did T. S. Eliot have contact with Gellicles at some point, leading to his creation of Jellicle Cats? And what is a blue hole? Does it spew time? Engines dead? Air supply low? Advice please. This one gets a wibbly wobbly orange swirly thing in space out of a possible Vogon poetry jam on the WTF-o-meter.
My Final Verdict
On a personal level, I should have been infuriated by this book. It’s like a surrealist comedy version of one of my own stories, right down to the unfair bet made by the snooty federation-leaders and the human captain backed up by the true believer … but nope. I’m here for it, and I couldn’t approve more. Huck is the funniest swear ever. I’m giving this book five stars, but only because I can’t give it six.