Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Book 8 of 2014: Smallworld by Dominic Green

I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every book review for the last month that I’d been a bit behind on the required reading for my course. I’d downloaded a whole bunch of free Kindle books to take a break from the children’s books and something about Smallworld by Dominic Green caught my eye. I’ll admit, I totally judged this book by its cover. I liked the cover image, read the description and couldn’t help but be intrigued.

It’s actually a series of short stories, as opposed to one long story, but they’re all tied together as they feature characters from one family who live on a tiny planet. The planet is so small you can walk right the way around it quite easily and the family are basically a group of futuristic Puritans. Various people come to visit their little planet and the stories relate their encounters with these outsiders.

The book started well, but it sort of dragged on a bit after the first few stories. At the beginning it was quite humorous, in a similar sort of vein to Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin, but as the story went on it became more serious. I think it worked best when it was being funny, rather than when it was trying to make some sort of social commentary.

That said, I can’t fault the structure of the book. I didn’t realise immediately that it was going to be a series of short stories. Each chapter is kind of its own mini adventure in the family saga. It’s a clever idea and the only other book I’ve read with a similar sort of structure is the series of James Herriot books.

I’m a bit of a name nerd so I loved the names of the characters in this book. I’ve always been amused by some of the names of the Puritans who seemed to have been named by sticking a pin in a Bible verse. Well, that’s how these characters have been named so you get names along the lines of ‘Pitch-Not-Thy-Tent-Towards-Sodom Ogundere’. Some reviewers found this naming convention tiresome and while I can see why they might feel that way, I really liked it.

I also couldn’t help but be reminded of Doctor Who in terms of the setting. There was a lot of science-speak that went over my head but it showed that the setting had been well thought out. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if the Doctor had shown up at some point, the things the characters got up to seem to be right up his street.

Although I’ve not really looked to see if Dominic Green has done much else, I would be interested in reading more of his stuff, particularly if it was in the comedy vein.

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