Time for the Machine Republic to Kurl Up and Dye
It’s a year since the Battlestar Suburbia broke free from Earth and the human rebellion is hiding out in the asteroid belt. Their leader, Admiral Janice, is assembling a fleet she hopes can topple robot rule – except on Wednesday afternoons when she can do you a half head of highlights for 30 quid.
Janice has given Darren, now the reluctant captain of the teenage starship Polari, a critical mission, to open up a path back to Earth by bombing the Martian Gap Services. But when it goes wrong and Darren and his crew are chased deep into the solar system, Janice has only one hope left, back on Earth.
Here, sentient breadmaker Pamasonic Teffal is resisting the human–machine war the best way she knows how: by running for office. Until a distress signal from Janice persuades her to get her turbo-charged alter ego Pam Van Damme out of mothballs, that is…
Can Pam save the solar system and rescue Kelly from the clutches of her nemesis, the crazed smartphone-turned-cyborg, Sonny Erikzon?
Anyone who follows the blog will know the Battlestar Suburbia was one of my Top Ten Books of 2018 (you can read my review of the book here), so I am extra excited to be reviewing the sequel, Battle Beyond the Dolestars, on the blog today, which is its publication day. Happy publication day, Chris, and my thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
There is always a risk with a sequel to a book that you have loved as much as I loved Battlestar Suburbia that it isn’t going to live up to expectations. The ‘difficult second book’ syndrome. I am delighted to report that any such fears are unfounded with this book, it was every bit as mad, funny and clever as the first one and I enjoyed every minute of revisiting the Battlestar Suburbia-iverse (NB. must think of a snappier reference.)
The first book was a such a hit with me because it blended together my love of the works of Douglas Adams, a nostalgic nod to Red Dwarf and really, really bad puns. I absolutely love a really, really bad pun. This book has all of that, plus a great interweaving of subtle, and less subtle, references to the total shambles that is our current political situation. I’m not quite sure how Chris does it, but all these things which should probably end up being a huge soupy mess actually blend together really well and flow like a well-oiled machine to make a book that it sharp, funny, clever and thought-provoking, all at the same time. Did I mention the truly terrible puns?
I really, really love the characters in these books and it was fascinating to see how they have all developed in the year since the last story ended. Janice, the reluctant leader of the resistance is finding that the demands of leadership weigh heavily on the shoulders of a hairdresser who hasn’t really had dealings with people for decades, except three ancient cyborgs formed from the bodies of cantankerous, elderly customers. She’s much rather be left alone in her salon, instead of being forced to try and out spies using ingenious hairdressing techniques.
Darren also hasn’t quite worked out how to fit comfortably into his new role as space hero, particularly the costuming part, but he’s doing his best. Pamasonic Teffal continued to be my favourite character, although she actually ends up being more than one, due to her schizophrenic approach to the resistance movement. Her escapades in the world of the social hostess particularly made me laugh. There were also some great new characters to get to grips with and the whole thing was just a joyous smorgasbord of silliness and science. Honestly, there hasn’t been anything quite like this available for a ,long time, it is such a clever blend of madness and brilliance, I really can’t sing the praises of the series enough.
I’m really hoping that this is not the last we see of the Battlestar Suburbia-iverse (damn, failed to improve on it), because I have really grown very fond of its quirkiness. Maybe Chris will do an Adams and give us a trilogy in five parts as an homage to a writer who has to have been an influence. But, even if this is the end, I really look forward to seeing what he produces next because he has a very unique way of looking at things that I am keen to see more of.
About the Author
Chris McCrudden was born in South Shields (no, he doesn’t know Cheryl) and has been, at various points in his life, a butcher’s boy, a burlesque dancer and a hand model for a giant V for Victory sign on Canary Wharf.
He now lives in London and, when not writing books, works in PR, so in many ways you could describe his life as a full-time fiction. If you like science fiction, graphs and gifs from RuPaul’s Drag Race you can follow him on Twitter for all three, sometimes at once @cmccrudden.