*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, with thanks to the author and publishers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: In space, no one can hear you clean…
When Darren’s charge-cart gets knocked off the Earth-to-Mars highway and lost in space forever, he thinks his day can’t get any worse.
When Kelly sees Darren accidentally short-circuit a talking lamppost, and its camera captures her face as it expires, she thinks her day can’t get any worse.
When Pamasonic Teffal, a sentient breadmaker, is sent on a top-secret mission into the depths of the internet and betrayed by her boss, a power-crazed smartphone, she knows this is only the beginning of a day that isn’t going to get any better.
Join Darren, Kelly and Pam in an anarchic comic adventure that takes them from the shining skyscrapers of Singulopolis to the sewers of the Dolestar Discovery, and find out what happens when a person puts down their mop and bucket and says ‘No.’ Battlestar Suburbia will be loved by fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, as well as anyone who’s ever wondered just how long someone can stay under one of those old-fashioned hairdryers.*
*The answer is: a really very, very long time.
Comparisons between this book and the work of Douglas Adams and Jasper Fforde are well-deserved.
In Battlestar Suburbia Chris McCrudden has skilfully created a futuristic dystopia, in which machines rule and humans are only good for cleaning and some lascivious dial-twiddling, whilst simultaneously retaining and lampooning the morality and values of contemporary society, with all of its obsession with smartphones and lolcats.
The writing style is direct, fast-paced and light in tone; packed with puns and witty pop- and historical-culture references. I particularly liked the salon ladies, once I got used to the visceral creepiness of their physical states.
Our heroes, as listed in the blurb, are hapless Darren (who can’t change a light bulb without accidentally electrocuting someone), fearless Kelly (and her slightly intimidating mum), and efficient Pam (who manages to maintain a cosy family life whilst secretly enjoying a little dabble on the dark side of the forbidden web). The female characters are all strong and smart from the get-go, but poor Darren needs a little warming up!
He starts the story as a blunderer who is incapable of crossing the street without accidentally starting a world war, and indeed it isn’t long before his simple problems of how to get some cash become the slightly bigger ones of staying alive, untangling himself from the centre of a world-domination scheme and saving the world. It’s a good job he grows in confidence, initiative and bravery as the story unrolls!
The villain of the piece is the insane megalomaniac type that sends shivers through you as he casual-violences his way through a disturbed scheme to rip apart established society just to fulfil his own little fantasy. He definitely had me side-eyeing my smartphone! Still, what seems like pure selfishness actually illustrated the underlying and overarching theme of the whole book: the line between object and objectified. If a person, or thing, only has value by dint of its utility or productiveness then society becomes a colder, darker place no matter who is ultimately in charge. Or as Pratchett put it: ‘Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things’ (I Shall Wear Midnight).
In general this is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure full of fights, explosions and races against the clock. The ending neatly resolves the immediate story whilst setting up a new scenario for future instalments and leaving a few doors tantalisingly open. I will be interested to see where McCrudden takes his intriguing cast of misfits (both human and machine) next with the whole of space to explore…!
To their robot overlords, humans might just be clumps of inefficient matter, but they still had names among themselves. Take Darren, for example. At first glance he was the living embodiment of what was often called the ‘human stain’ condition. He was short, his nose ran more efficiently than he did, and he made his living selling battery top-ups by the side of the road.
Or he did until one afternoon a Sports-Utility-Vehicle undertook a washing machine on the hard shoulder, dinging his charge-cart off the embankment of the Earth-Mars highway and into orbit. And he watched, hyperventilating into his oxygen cap, as his livelihood drifted off into space.
– Chris McCrudden, Battlestar Suburbia
Battlestar Suburbia is available on Amazon right now!