Thursday, 7 March 2013


ABOVE HIS STATION by Darren Craske

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can forgive a lot when a book makes me laugh. Even sending me a postapocalyptic novel to review when my reviewer profile clearly states "no postapocalyptic". It's such a silly apocalypse, though, that Darren Craske gets away with it.

(Especially given the harsh words about lawyers in the book, the lawyers for whoever owns the lyrics to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" will probably be less forgiving. The author would be well advised to paraphrase instead of quoting.)

It's very British humour. If you don't get Monty Python, you won't get this. (There are a number of pythons in it, but oddly, none of them appears to be called Monty.) It reminds me most of Tom Holt: a hapless, loserish, very ordinary and extremely British protagonist encounters inexplicable and unbelievable events and has to cope as best he can. It's more cheerful than Tom Holt, though, the problems are caused by aliens instead of supernatural beings, and it isn't the same plot that Holt has been recycling for years. Nobody is called Jane, and the hero doesn't find an unlikely love.

The author captures the voice of an elderly British public servant of the lower middle class so well, for a while I thought he might actually be that person. The early rambling backstory goes on a little too long, rambles a little too much. Then a tiger attacks, and the story begins properly.

The book appears to lack the touch of a professional editor, but it's better than most books of which that can be said. There are apostrophe issues, straight-up typos, words used incorrectly, homophone problems ("brazier" instead of "brassiere", for example, which would be horribly uncomfortable), "inferred" used to mean "implied", "descendants" used to mean "ancestors", "astrologers" used to mean "astronomers", and "the rat and I" when it should be "the rat and me". Some of these may be the author doing the voice of the station guard, but I suspect most of them are genuine mistakes. However, there aren't a great many of them, perhaps a couple of dozen scattered through the book. I'm giving four stars for language, because the contrasting voices of the narrator and his foul-mouthed rat friend are so well done.

There's not a lot to say about the plot. There is one. It has a number of holes in it, like a 30-minute deadline that would have existed under one set of circumstances still applying under a quite different set of circumstances, and a Hobson's choice that the protagonist sticks with even when another, better option appears, but the overall silliness level is so high that a plot that makes sense would almost be out of place. I'll give plot three stars, but it's a highish three.

Likewise setting. Some key things are never explained (perhaps they will be in one of the sequels, but I'm not holding my breath), and there's no actual science in the science fiction. Again: silliness. It made me laugh, it gets a pass, though only three stars for setting.

The characters are great. Less wet than Tom Holt's, more rounded than Douglas Adams'. I'll say again, very funny. Four stars and a bit for character, so adding all of that up and rounding, a definite four-star book.

The author gave me a free copy of this book through the Kindle Book Review website in exchange for an independent, fair and honest review. I didn't receive any other inducements from the author, and have no other association with him. I believe that next time I need a laugh, I'll spend my own money on the sequel.

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