I normally do two posts per day, but since it was a holiday, I decided to put this one off. I don’t do many book reviews on my blog, but since I had this one sent to me for review, I was quite interested in this.
As I mentioned in my Doctor Who review, I enjoy good speculative fiction, and I really like the kind that is fun. With a title like Earthman Jack Vs. The Ghost Planet, it is clearly supposed to be escapist sci-fi. Indeed, this is what it is. I am going to say that the biggest problem that I had with author Matthew Kadish’s work is that there doesn’t appear to be anything in it that I haven’t seen before.
In fact, the book feels like an rip-off to all great science fiction films. It reminds me of Super 8, a J.J. Abrams film that felt like all of the 70’s and 80’s Steven Spielberg films blended together. In the case of Earthman Jack, it doesn’t feel like it is is a good blend (not that Super8 was anything more that Abrams praising Spielberg). Earthman Jack is more like a tossed salad than a melting pot of other speculative films. I can see very specific plot elements and characters in Earthman Jack that feel like imitations of other sci-fi works.
The story is about a young teenager who finds himself involved in a Star Wars/Star Trek world filled with aliens, robots, spaceships, and all of the typical aforementioned speculative fiction machinery. Yes, you have seen this before, and you have seen characters like Jack before. He is simply an attempt at being the modern version of the “unlikely yet likely” hero from pretty much every story ever made. You know, I once heard that “Jack” is the most common name for a protagonist in films, and so it stands to reason that this is our hero’s name.
Without revealing too much of the plotline, I can tell you that it starts out very much like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That book was original in the sense it has a humorous narrative tone, and Earthman Jack attempts to imitate it. In fact, the book starts out saying that within the grand universe, the tale that is most popular in all two septillion entries was apparently this one. Seriously, it says that. In all honesty, I would never give any story that much raised expectation.
As I have stated before, there are sections of this story that feel like a blatant imitation of previous speculative works. There are enemies known as the Deathlords (even Jack doesn’t believe they are called Deathlords) that feel like a cross between Darth Vader and other evil alien overlords. There’s a princess who is your typical damsel in distress. There is a scoundrel in it for the money, a wise-cracking robot, and a tough giant with a heart of gold. Oh, there is also a tough guardian who feels a lot like a Jedi.
The book is pure adolescent boy wish fulfillment. It starts out with a boy standing up to a bully for the sake of a girl who he is infatuated with. In the process, he ends up protecting a princess of the galaxy against an army of alien Deathlords.
Okay, if you are reading my tone, you might be thinking that I didn’t like the book. To some extent this is true, as it feels like someone’s first work. It makes a lot of mistakes that I, as a writer, made with fiction like have scenes that are too long and don’t know when to quit with a throwaway joke. The dialogue feels so taken from other sci-fi works, and it actually uses “Boring conversation anyway”, a line from Star Wars. This is only one example of ripped-off dialogue, and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes with each one.
All right, I’ve got that out of my system. I know I have mentioned that this book seems to be a rip-off of other speculative works, but I actually believe that this is the point. I believe that the author was attempting to mix satire and homage together in Earthman Jack, and I believe that he has, for the most part, succeeded. The book is a good page turner, and a lot of the scenes feel pretty cinematic.
I am not certain what direction the author will take this work, but you can find out more about it here. Book 2 is due out soon, and I highly recommend you read his first book and see if it is worth your private funding for all seven books.