Rejected title: "Intergalactic Sugar Gliders"
The introduction is short, but loaded with details that seem absolutely pregnant with possibility, but are presented with "oh well" banality. It's the far future and I was born on a star ship (presumably a goofy looking and under-performing one) to parents from two different galaxies. These galaxies are apparently less than exotic, their homeworlds resembling a planet called "earth" more than anything. The not-quite-right nepotism kicks in when I'm informed that I'm turning 18 and because I was born in the void of space I can choose my planet of "citizenship." Apparently every inhabited planet now has only one nation, different galaxies regularly interact, up to and including doing the wild thing in deep space and faster-than-light travel is common. This is a lot to swallow all at once.
I should also point out that during the review of "Your Code Name is Jonah" I speculated that was the only book in this series where you play an adult and I'm immediately proven wrong. Oh well, even the Superb Owl winner lost in the regular season.
I get a choice between two planets and naturally pick the one that is three times the size of earth (looking forward to being pinned to the ground by the gravity), has a dying sun and "history full of trouble." Honestly, who wouldn't choose that planet, especially when the other choice is menaced by "Black Holes" and "Super Novas" and maybe whatever other "space" concept the author could find after skimming the entry in World Book Encyclopedia.
The 1980s version of the internet.
Now the wussy vehicle is unveiled, a one-man "spacepod" that looks like something Fisher Price would reject as too fanciful. Anyway, I leave the "Mother Ship" and promptly things begin to go wrong. Oh no, a nebula! Man, that "World Book" snark really was right on the money. I hope I live long enough to see the "asteroid belt" or "Planet Pluto" or whatever other crazy general knowledge menace pops up next.
Taking a page from some space film that's probably too obscure for any of you to recognize I "trust my instincts" and try to make my way through, despite now being hammered by a meteor shower! The book suggests I "radio for help" which considering the vastness of the stellar ocean seems fairly pointless, so instead I deploy two of my strongest virtues: "waiting and hoping." Surely my awesome hoping powers will save me from a Universe determined to destroy my dorky glider analogue.
This cover suggest a story that's righteous as all hell in a blatant bit of false advertising.
I hit the "advance" button and instead of getting next week's paycheck now I'm flung into a "transit zone" which is a "space highway" cluttered with traffic. This author really didn't understand the whole "universe is vast and mostly empty" concept that often gets forgotten in the race to discuss the more sexy topics like meteorites and red shift.
So I join a caravan. It's like this nonsense should have been in By Balloon to Sahara but they ran out of room while developing that whole awful "salt aliens" sub-plot and it was held over to the next book where it was inserted in such a seamless fashion. Just change "camels" to "star ships" and you're basically done.
Are you allowed to smoke in one of those?
I fall in with an alien woman of the non-sexy variety who is running "black hole dust" to some backwater called "Earth" where the population thinks it has anti-aging properties. We both get a good laugh about that one, and can only shake our heads at the shallowness of the people she plans on ripping off for a profit. I arrive, and my main impression is the "tall ugly buildings." Thousands of years of literature, art, science, philosophy and cuckold pornography and this is the impression we make on visitors. The Earth tourism and development people are really dropping the ball.
I decide to stay. The author hammers home how much Earth sucks (wars, genocides, rape of the natural world, riddled with racial prejudice, ignorant, judgmental and that guy over there shoved me) but since I'm going to stay I have to find some sort of silver lining and I do in something called the "United Nations."
Of all the diverse achievements of humanity the only one that rates mention is an ill-conceived N.W.O. tyrant enabling and shoe-pounding assembly. If that was really all we've ever done that had any value I would welcome the disintegrator rays from the galactic community.
You know what, I think I can figure out your position without asking.
This one really drowned in the typical R.A. Montgomery tropes. I guess the story deserves some credit for being imaginative, but being forced to portray Space Obama ruined everything.
Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.