Review: CAPTAIN QUASAR AND THE SPACE-TIME DISPLACEMENT CONUNDRUM, by Milo James Fowler
Posted by maddalena@spaceandsorcery
I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
There is a movie I re-watch regularly when I’m in the mood for some light-hearted humor, and it’s Galaxy Quest: a fun trip through some of the tropes of televised science fiction, and one that never fails to make me laugh for the perfect balance of annoyance and affection that those tropes entail. Captain Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum is indeed the equivalent of that movie, and for me it represented an amusing interlude between more ‘serious’ books, the necessary change of pace every reader needs now and then.
The novel follows the bizarre adventures of the titular Captain Quasar and the crew of his ship, the Effervescent Magnitude, clearly modeled on its iconic television counterpart: Quasar finds himself swinging wildly between past and present after an accident with an outlandish new engine that has destroyed vessel and crew only to have them reappear, five hundred years later, through a black hole. Don’t look for logical narrative progression in this story, or for scientific plausibility, because that’s not the point of it all: the goal here is to poke some fun at the genre’s most used clichés, with a kindly mischievous eye. The best way to appreciate it all is to sit back and enjoy the ride…
And indeed it is a Helzapoppin-style trip, where we encounter two and a half meter tall Amazonian warriors from a society where men are enslaved and treated like chattel, only to witness one of them fall head over heels for the intrepid captain and his far-too-often mentioned bulging muscles, gleaming teeth and perfect hair; or face formless globs of gelatinous matter intent on exacting a toll from the Magnitude as it passes through their area of space; or spider-like bounty hunters who can double as space pirates and so on. There’s even the required god-like being only Quasar can see, since he’s embedded in the captain’s consciousness – or rather in his sinuses, after having inhaled the quartz dust on the planet where the ancient creature dwells. See what I mean?
Quasar himself is the incarnation of all those square-jawed, intrepid heroes from the screen, but with a substantial difference: on TV we see only the outward “shell” of those characters, we observe their heroic efforts and bold endeavors, not to mention their romantic interludes, while here we are privy to the captain’s inner thoughts, and they somewhat tarnish the picture. Captain Bartholomew Quasar is as self-centered and selfish as they come, graced with a high degree of self-esteem (“They may not have been as good looking as me or some of you […]”) and the required attitude toward women we have come to expect from this kind of “hero”, and yet he manages to instill a form of amused sympathy in the reader, who ends up rooting for him – not despite his massive shortcomings, but because of them.
The only overt redeeming quality Quasar possesses is his affection for helmsman Hank, a furry, four-armed alien (it took me a few instances to connect his shaggy appearance with the name of his planet of origin, Carpethria, but I finally did…) who is the only constant fixture in the captain’s peregrinations through time, together with the god-like alien Steve, old, bearded and leaning on a wooden staff. These two characters represent the one constant element in the narrative arc: Hank on one side, providing Quasar with something akin to firm ground, and Steve on the other, acting as a sort of conscience for the intrepid captain – provided he does have one, a topic on which the jury is still out…
Add to the mix the amorous Amazon Asteria (a sight that can make even the boldest captain quake in his boots) and a series of equally bizarre characters, and you obtain an outlandish mix that will carry you into the depths of unknown space – and time – at a breakneck pace, helped by the very short chapters that jump from one weird adventure to the next in quick succession.
If you’re looking for some light fun, you need look no further…
After some time, I’m back with an offering for the 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, an event hosted by Carl V. Anderson over at Stainless Steel Droppings (follow the links to know more!) and running until January 31st.