Friday, October 09, 2009

JD's Take: The Sheriff of Yrnameer: A Novel (Michael Rubens)

After my first few pages of this book, I took a moment to try to describe it to myself. The best I could come up with was if you asked Terry Pratchett to write a story in the style of Douglas Adams. This seemed... hyperbolic to me but there is a fair amount of truth in the description. The setting has the same absurd-but-recognizable futurism of Douglas Adams that makes you think "well of course in the future the dust kicked up by a scuffed foot will form the logo of the planet's sponser!", and the writing has a style that cannot help but remind you of Pratchett.

We enter the story in medea res with the main character Cole (think Han Solo being played by Space Quest's Roger Wilco) being dangled upside down and preparing to have his brain filled with the ravenous young of the collector his loan shark sent. He had just robbed a fellow smuggler who in turn had just robbed an adorable pair of dwarves. Who in turn had just robbed a casino. Sadly, that money was nowhere near enough. The creature dangling Cole is Kenneth, a Lovecraftian horror of an alien creature with a pleasant and soothing baritone voice that belays his natural inclination to lay eggs in people's brains and his unconscionable love of soap-opera style drama. One thing inevitably leads to another and we follow Cole across the galaxy with a ship stolen from his arch-rival and filled with smuggled freeze-dried orphans on a search for a Utopia. Adventures are had along the way, the way they so often are.

The plot is well-paced, but predictable... you will in no way be surprised by the character development arcs of any of the half-dozen characters who have them. Sadly too, some of the more interesting secondary characters are quite regrettably left to languish, narration-less, along the borders of the story. These are, of course, quibbles. Yes, it's a tad predictable but this story will have you flipping pages with complete disregard for work schedules or sane sleeping habits. The witty writing, inventive world, and flawed characters make it challenging to find that perfect break to set it down.

Is it as good as a book by the aforementioned giants? Not quite. It is fun, frantic and highly entertaining however; a page-turner that will make you wish Mr. Rubens would quit wasting his considerable talent on that no-good day job of writing for the Daily Show and focus on what's really important: expanding and improving the desperately under-served genre of humorous imaginative fiction. Pratchett won't be around forever and it's totally unfair of us to depend on A. Lee Martinez to see us through those dark days ahead. Verdict: absolutely pick up this book.

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