In Williamson’s debut sci-fi satire, aliens abduct three British high school students who later find themselves setting off a revolution.
James Justice is participating in an extracurricular Student-Teacher Action Group at school when he suddenly finds himself zapped onto a spaceship with two of his classmates—Ben Deadwood, a bully; and Joanne Honeydaze, James’ No. 1 crush. Once they acclimate to their new environment, they discover that the massive ship is home to an entire alien society divided along strict class lines. The farmers at the bottom work miserable hours to survive on a tiny income, while members of the Administration thrive on the farmers’ toil and make seemingly arbitrary rules that benefit only themselves. James realizes that he can’t allow this arrangement to go on, and so he and his fellow students decide to help the farmers take control. They receive help from two other outsiders, nicknamed Harold and Maude, like the titular characters in the famed 1971 cult film. Williamson’s novel displays a fantastic, playful sense of humor with a keen sense of the ridiculous and illogical; the characters’ names are but a few examples of the book’s whimsy. Overall, it’s highly reminiscent of classic British humor, such as that of Lewis Carroll, Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Red Dwarf. Perhaps its most direct influence is the British sci-fi TV show Doctor Who; its plot, which satirically mocks contemporary society, including its obsession with reality television, is reminiscent of a number of Doctor Who episodes. However, the novel doesn’t do nearly enough to distinguish itself, seemingly content to echo other, superior works past and present. Far too often, it meanders through its strange, not-so-new world when its wit and invention should be gaining steam.
An often very funny satire, but one that has little new to say.