OILY by Angus  Woodward


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In Woodward’s (Americanisation, 2011, etc.) sci-fi comedy, a New Orleans couple must prevent aliens from exterminating the human race.

College writing instructor Warren Avon spots what appears to be a “long, black acorn” while walking near his home. It’s actually a tiny spaceship containing Jerry and Phthsspitty-snapp, aliens from the planet Xxzzrrrva. The former is a scientist on his 29th planetary mission, and the latter, an intern on her first voyage. Their probe of Earth, which they call “Grawgraw-3,” is halted when Warren captures their ship, so Jerry initiates communication with the human. As he relates their mission, he takes the opportunity to ask Warren about Earth. Jerry finds out that petroleum is a valuable local fuel, and he’s sure that Xxzzrrrva’s Exploratory Board will destroy humanity to keep them from wasting it. The two aliens, along with Warren and his wife, Penny, devise a plan to stop Jerry’s superior, Councilor Hmmm, from authorizing mankind’s eradication. This isn’t an easy task, especially after Jerry inadvertently blows up an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The group also faces another seemingly impossible task—to somehow convince humans to use alternative fuel sources. Unusually, Woodward structures his entire novel as a “TERMS OF USE” agreement. However, this agreement also includes excerpts from a book (with Warren listed as its author) that advance the more traditional story in a chronological manner. This offbeat approach is frequently hilarious, as when the agreement includes an example of plagiarism that simply changes the characters’ names (“Jerry,” for instance, becomes “Larry”). Surprisingly, though, the agreement’s constant interruptions are never jarring. Although the short novel doesn’t delve deeply into its characters, they are distinctive; for example, Penny suffers from a mysterious ailment that results in conflicting diagnoses. The narrative also often provides memorable descriptions, as when Warren explains fishing boats to Jerry. The Terms of Use are more formal in tone but take comical turns; the agreement discourages loaning the book to others, offering “strategies for deflecting loan requests.”

A straightforward sci-fi story in an unorthodox but entertaining package.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9997862-4-6
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Spaceboy Books LLC
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2019


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