Tommy Storm and the Galactic Knights by A J Healy
|Tommy Storm and the Galactic Knights by A J Healy|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: An overlong but still very enjoyable look at Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-styled sci-fi for the under-14s.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: Quercus Publishing|
Meet Tommy Storm. He's one of five teenagers snapped up from around the universe to be a gang of heroic detectives charged with rescuing EVERYTHING from destruction. Not just the planet, or the solar system, or even the galaxy, but EVERYTHING. Nobody seems to know what's going to cause this destruction, or when, but he and his friends and their ship seem to be the only people proactively going about saving the day. So it's a pity that they start this book strung up by a nasty loony who's about to kill them.
Of course, he doesn't get his way, but throughout the next 430pp and more the youngsters aren't going to have it all their own way either - clues they get regarding people to meet concerning things to do that might help them - their destiny is the vaguest around. It'll involve a hellish planet and its inhabitant(s), a lot of falling out and emotional problems with each other, and - the cause of a lot of that - a bizarre reality TV programme.
I didn't think I would get much out of this to start with - the idea this group had been thrust together in a prequel I'd not met with, and more, made me suspect the worst. But I very quickly found my way into the scheme of things - the five are very easily drawn, for one, and there's no problem with having not sampled the first book, either.
And there's a short-hand approximation for this book I found welcome as well. This book can easily be described as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy done for a modern, hipper, younger audience. There is a Guide-like computer on the ship adding in all the background we need to know about the worlds, and this universe shares many absurdist elements with Douglas Adams - shepherd's pies seem to contain shepherds anywhere else but Earth; we have a character called Dell Oodid, another is Nack Jickilson, with his spacecraft I-Headbutted-Your-Gran.
Beyond that, I was happy to see through one of the copious punning jokes that the author knows very well he's usurping Adams, his sense of humour, his liking of social comment through sci-fi parody, and his style. He's also borrowing from hundreds of other sources. A character there is, who like Yoda talks. There's a richness to the experience gained from wilful plunder and parody.
There also is a lot of, if not waffle, then the unnecessary. I would have wished this to be the Guide seen through the eyes of someone as brisk and concise as Eoin Colfer - had I not just found the official result of that to be less than perfect. The fact that the plot goes all over the place, and takes its characters likewise, is a problem Adams had, Colfer has adopted, and A J Healy here also suffers from.
I'm not saying at all that things should be linear, nor that this is unacceptably woolly, but I did long for a large chunk to have been jettisoned. The success rate and quantity of the jokes at the beginning of the book slacks off, the intrigue we might have about the deaths of the various solar systems en route to the beginning of the end of EVERYTHING is lost when we forget who's what and how much our heroes know - and have so much to flick back through to revise.
Also I didn't find the TV programme the most welcome, or most timeless, way for our protagonists to be split as the plot demands. I hope the target audience, perhaps the 8 to 14 year olds, gel with it more than I did.
This is a hefty, good value chunk of a book, which is to its credit, with a host of fine points and plenty gags to be going on with, but to repeat I did long for a brisker, firmer approach to the wackiness out in this universe. It could easily have been shelved forwards of And Another Thing... were it as I hoped.
I must thank the kind Quercus people for my review copy.
The multiple worlds, and the quest disguised as TV programme factor, reminded me of Quillan Games by D J MacHale.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Tommy Storm and the Galactic Knights by A J Healy at Amazon.com.
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