Flummox or Bust, by Kevin Bowersox (16:17)

IOD-FlummoxBroad humor that gets in the way of the story doesn’t work for me. But if you like French clowns or Will Ferrell, this might be your thing.

What I gleaned about the story: It’s a ship-in-space adventure of some kind, with a very diverse alien crew. Tentacles and lettuce-floating-in-a-jar kinds of diversity. But whether they’re smugglers, freedom fighters, or just bar-hopping space dandies, I didn’t discover.

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WTF #1: A race called Cling-ons and a character named Penny Forethought.

Analysis: These came more or less one after the other in the narrative, so I decided to lump them together. Here’s the thing. I like humor in my science fiction. But humor is a pesky thing, and it just so happens that I have a very short fuse for puns and over-precious word play. It’s one of the reasons I could never get into Terry Pratchett.

I’m also a bit of a naming snob. I have a thing for finding the “just so” name for important characters and places. The subtle poetry of the right label for the right thing can do wonders for character development, world revelation, mood, etc. So when I encounter broad puns as names, it hits me like a French comedy. I understand that lots of people out there find it funny. But I just don’t laugh. Sorry. Some people laugh at genitalia drawn on magazine faces too. Shrug.

WTF #2: So our POV character, Throom, has just interviewed three new candidates for crew positions. He asks each of them what job they’d like to fill. He has concerns about their choices. He has unanswered questions about their physiological compatibility with both the ship’s environment, and their job duties. But he hires them anyway.

Analysis: There are actually a lot of things that rub me wrong about this hiring process. Throom appears to be interviewing candidates with whom he has had previous electronic communications, but he is surprised by their physical appearance, their background, and has no idea what job they are applying for. So what was the content of their previous communications? Exchanging recipes? And why does he interview all three of them – who were all mutual strangers – at the same time? And why does he have all these concerns and misgivings about their physical appearance and ability to do the job, but then hire them anyway, and not even ask some of the questions that are worrying him? Does he not know that a bad crew choice can get everybody killed?

WTF #3: More too-precious jokes: a character whose mind is stored in a Brain Bubble 3000, and the motto printed on the ship’s deflector system is “To Swerve and Deflect.”

Analysis: That deflection line is actually very clever, but it’s just been too many of these word-play jokes for my tastes. They stick out like a bed pan in a tea service and pull me right out of the flow. It seems that going for the laugh is more important than telling an engaging story, and at this point, I’d stumbled over one too many carpet wrinkles and gotten flung into a potted plant next to the elevator. Cue laugh track.

Kudos: The prose in this actually very good. It has nice rhythm and it flows well, with an eye for setting a scene. For a while there, I wondered if this one might go the distance. So if the humor sounds like your bag, you might want to check it out.

Pay Me, Bug! by Christopher Wright (40:00)
A Noble's Quest, by Ryan Toxopeus (9:11)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.