(Not called “Book of the Month” because…well, we like doing joint reviews and can’t have more than one “Book of the Month” or the title loses significance, right? Right?)
Title: Awesome Lavratt
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
Summary: (from unlimitedpublishing.com)
In the spirit of the cult classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Beautiful Aranna Navna plans to conquer the galaxy one planet at a time. She steals the Awesome Lavratt, a mind control device, from a freighter in Horace Whistlestop’s junkyard. She takes Horace, too. With the Lavratt, Aranna manipulates the thoughts and desires of everyone around her —- until she gets to the Emperor of Calistania. Then things go from bad to worse for Aranna. The Lavratt, however, has only just begun! Oh, the fun you can have from a small cube with mind control powers. Travel the galaxy with Tyrantz Lavratt. Silly science fiction at its best. All puns intended.
Thea: Ann contacted us shortly after we had our Grimspace book debate, and generously provided us with copies of her upcoming novel, Awesome Lavratt. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, just that I found the summary (above) intriguing. I was surprised and delighted by Lavratt and by Ms. Wilkes’ distinct style. “Silly science fiction at its best” encompasses exactly how I feel about this wonderful, quirky little novel!
Ana: She had me at “In the spirit of the cult classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “. That flat out spiked my interest. This is a shot story (100 pages or so) and as such it was a fast read – I was done in about two hours. The first few pages – some of the most important ones in a book (it can make or break a read) were quite excellent and gripping: I kept guessing what was happening and the fast pace of the story thereafter kept my interested to the very end. I had to take a break to go get something to eat and couldn’t wait to get back. That says a lot.
On the plot
The novel opens with Horace Whistlestop (love the name) running his junkyard, and finding that for some reason his latest salvage is extremely popular. First, an alien pulls in asking about it, then a beautiful woman named Aranna pleads with Horace to let her find a memento from her lost lover onboard (yeah right). After nearly being blown to bits by a third party looking for the same object, Horace knows something fishy is going on…but it’s too late. Aranna has taken control of the object (the titled Awesome Lavratt), and now has the ability to read and manipulate minds.
What do you do with omniscent mind control powers? Why, set off for world domination of course!
Aranna takes Horace with her and sets off for Calistania, a monarchic world she has designs on. As she relates to Horace, she knows that she will be worshipped there. Horace doesn’t trust Aranna, but when he’s in her presence, she controls him completely, and all he can think about is loving her and helping her do whatever she wishes.
Aranna’s plan goes smoothly–she is openly welcomed by everyone on the planet for her beauty (and because she is manipulating their minds). However, when she finally meets the Emperor, she realizes that she cannot control him–his mind is an impenetrable fortress. Aranna can’t have that, and so she devises a nefarious scheme to get rid of him…and Horace finally decides he has had enough, and attempts to stand up to Aranna.
Now, no spoilers, but the story doesn’t end there. More characters are introduced, more settings explored, and then of course there is the Lavratt it(him)self. Who is(was) it? What does (he)it want?
We found the twisty-turny nature of the plot and the unconventional tongue-in-cheek style of writing brilliant. This certainly isn’t a by the numbers type of story: Ms. Wilkes takes a conventional plotseed (questing for world domination and someone’s attempt to stop this world domination), and then throws convention out the window. Now that takes wit, skill, and most of all, some serious cojones.
Thea: Hmm what to say about the characters…there are a lot of them, surprisingly for such a short book. I can’t say that the characterization was outstanding, but then again, you don’t read this book looking for deep soul-searing character development. On the contrary, I admire Ms. Wilkes’ skill in painting all these characters, giving each of them a distinct color (even if they are simpler colors), and creating a wonderful collage. The Lavratt itself, along with villain Aranna, were wonderfully crafted. They are flat characters with simple motivations, but that’s the point.
Thea: This little novel is ingenious. It’s quirky, off-beat, and very original. Had the story taken itself seriously, it would not have worked. Certainly the writing isn’t flawless and there are some strange transitions, but overall this is a story meant to be taken at face value. It’s kind of like literary popcorn. Fun, fast, and easy on the calories. Ms. Wilkes’ wicked sense of humor and light prose suits the levity of the story–and leaves readers with a satisfied smile (or smirk) on their faces.
Thea: I love the puns! Especially some of the name choices: The suspicious and noble Horace Whistlestop, Prince of Foyldatempt, Tyrantz Lavratt, G U R M T…wonderful, silly fun!
Ana: I love the fact that for most people under the control of the device, the closer they were to the mind controller of the moment, the more they loved them as opposed to the moments where they were far away – that was quite bipolar, crazy even. For instance how Horace when close to Aranna felt like he loved her forever. “ I’m the luckiest man in the galaxy to have her for my own.” But in the moments away from her and the Lavratt he could actually realize the fact that he was mind-controlled and that she had an evil plan. The struggle was funny to read, specially because as the story is so short, this back and forth between undying love and terrible fear was done in a matter of sentences which made it even more crazy.
Thea: 6 Good, Recommend with Reservations
Ana: 6 Good, Recommended with Reservations
…and, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached a consensus!!!!
Reading Next: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (for reals this time)
KateMay 2, 2008 at 6:28 am
Oooo…I’m eager to see what you think about American Gods. It’s the only Gaiman I’ve read after years of being devoted to Terry Pratchett – I found Gaiman through “Good Omens,” which you should definitely read if you haven’t!
TheaMay 2, 2008 at 11:05 am
Kate 🙂 I’m actually about 3/4 through American Gods…and wow, is it a stunner. I love Neil Gaiman’s work–be it young adult, comics, or full fledged novels.
Good Omens is one of the many books sitting on my TBR:) I’m excited to dig in and read it, especially now with Ana’s and your recommendation! Terry Pratchett is hilarious, I was a huge fan of his discworld books back in the day 🙂
And while we are on the subject, Ana and I are planning a Neil Gaiman week very soon (along the lines of our “Western Appreciation Week”)!
KateMay 3, 2008 at 6:08 am
I still religiously read the Discworld – and reread – and reread. One thing you’ll probably catch are the very Pratchett-y bits in Good Omens. I didn’t catch as much obvious Gaiman in it, but then I’ve only read one of his. It’s a brilliant book, might be one of my favorites.
I’ll have to pick up more Gaiman to catch up with your upcoming Gaiman Week!