Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Skiffy.

I recently purchased and read Peter Grant's novel, Take The Star Road.

It was very reminiscent of Heinlein's juveniles, a bildungsroman that follows an earnest orphan as he sets off to make his way in the universe. It is clearly written and well edited, well ahead of most self-published stuff and better than some mass-market published genre fiction.

Since Heinlein's early works were marketed at an audience of literal Boy Scouts, his viewpoint characters were squeaky clean and painfully earnest and Grant's Steve Maxwell is no different, despite not having to pass muster with the editors of Boy's Life. Incidentally, this leads to the one really jarring note in the book for me: a seduction-followed-by-off-camera-nookie scene early in the book that seemed totally out of character for the protagonist and could probably be written out of the book without distracting from the story.

Our hero also begins the book as something of an incredible kung fu badass for an otherwise wet-behind-the-ears teen, but this becomes sort of central to the plot and so is not necessarily any worse than finding out that somehow J. Random Hobbit has the magic ring that can rule the world.

As the intended first novel in a series, there's a lot of exposition and world-building going on front of you, some of which is obvious but most of which is easily blended into the experiences of Young Kid Seeing Big Universe For First Time. An awful lot of kung fu-ing goes on, and one's feelings about that will probably affect one's feelings for the book.

I'd give it three stars out of five and will probably buy the second book in Kindle format to see what happens with young Steve.

Incidentally, Peter has also recently released a non-fiction memoir of his time as a chaplain in the federal prison system: Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls. Having known the author for many years, I am looking forward to reading it.

13 comments:

TriggerFinger said...

I had pretty much the same impression of the book, and liked the second one about the same.

Didn't realize you knew the author at the time.

Oleg Volk said...

The prison memoir is exceptionally good, in my opinion -- Peter's best by far.

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Tam said...
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Don said...

Are you sure there was nookie when they were off-screen? Nobody likes a gossip . . . :D

I'm glad you reviewed it. I bought it, but it's sitting on my Kindle while I do reading for work and stuff. I didn't know about the memoir, either, which will probably be more my speed.

Jason said...

Out of context nookie that leads nowhere and doesn't contribute to the plot? Sounds painfully realistic to me:-P.

Mike_C said...

Agree on the well-written and well-edited part. I think Miss D is to thank, at least in part, for the latter, IIRC. I liked Take the Star Road quite a bit, in part because it is at its heart an unabashedly optimistic book. In Steve Maxwell's world decency, loyalty and hard work ultimately are rewarded. Whether or not that is true in real life is not the point. I think it is good to have such examples, even if they are made up. I also think that TTSR would make (is?) indeed an excellent juvenile (or YA these days, I suppose) book. Good lessons embedded without being obnoxiously preachy.

While dystopian stories, if done well, may serve as a warning, they can be miserable to read. For example (at the risk of asshattishly criticizing a book I did not read in its entirety) after the free sampler chapters of Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, I wanted to slit my own wrists. Could not see paying to read the rest. Peter's Maxwell books are the opposite of such fare. Good for Peter.

FWIW I didn't find the shower nookie as jarring as you seem to have. It did seem a little out of place, but I thought it was a device to show us that young Steve is not an annoyingly uptight prig despite his remarkable self discipline. As to the kung fu, well sure, but it is an adventure story after all. Personally I had more trouble with Steve's "Lotus trophy" which kind of is finding the One Ring, isn't it?

Tam said...

"FWIW I didn't find the shower nookie as jarring as you seem to have.

Didn't say "jarring".

Tam said...

EDIT: Totally did say "jarring", didn't I? Probably a bad choice of words. "Incongruous"? "Superfluous"?

Tam said...

I grok what the author was doing, but was like sticking two pages of bow-chicka-wow-wow in the first third of Tunnel In The Sky or Have Space Suit, Will Travel...

Ted N said...

Have it, haven't gotten to it yet. Still working on Marko Kloos' Terms of Enlistment. Glad to hear it's good.

LCB said...

Let us know when you've read the second book. It's well written...but has a plot point that just didn't make sense to me...

Still...I plan on buying the 3rd book when it comes out because I AM enjoying the series very much.

Mike_C said...

> like sticking two pages of bow-chicka-wow-wow

I see your point -- don't necessarily disagree either.

Speaking of RAH, I need to re-read (or read for the first time) a bunch of Heinlein, I think. I read, and liked, Starship Troopers in high school which led to other Heinlein, but The Day After Tomorrow put me off. Not because of the anti-Asian stuff but because I couldn't see the Pan-Asians (which I equated with the Imperial Japanese forces because, well, we Chinese hate those f*ckers) allowing a new cult/5th column to arise under freedom of religion. The Pan-A's seemed insufficiently ruthless to me. Will be interesting to see what my presumably (presumptiously?) adult perspective is.