Before the kind folks at Gollancz sent me a copy of debut author Mitch Benn’s Science Fiction book, Terra, I had never heard of him. This was a good thing because I went into it not having any preconceived ideas. Not knowing Mitch was a comedian made it all the more satisfying when the novel made me laugh.
The first thing I saw was the Neil Gaiman quote on the cover, comparing this book to the likes of Dahl, Adams and Pratchett for being “wise and funny”. I wasn’t particularly impressed by this, as I’ve never been a fan of any of those authors, but I think this book is better than those comparisons, however, a quote from Neil Gaiman will be worth its weight in gold. This book is also allegedly the first book to be acquired due to a twitter exchange. I think this is fantastic. The image of Mitch just kicking his heels in London for a few hours and being asked to go into Gollancz towers to pitch his book is brilliant, and the result?
The book opens with a very stereotypical family scenario. Mr and Mrs Bradbury are constantly at each other’s throats, arguing over absolutely everything. When driving one night, an alien spacecraft appears in front of them. The Bradbury’s are so scared they jump out of the car and run as fast as they can. After more arguing they realise they have left their baby daughter in the car and find, when they return, she has gone.
Lbbp, an alien biologist, is researching Earth when he appears in front of the humans and, when the pair run away and leave their child, he thinks the parents have abandoned her and decides to take her with him back to his home planet of Fnrr. It’s here where newly named “Terra” grows up among the inhabitants of Fnrr without to much predigest. One thing the natives seem to lack is an ability to think for themselves and create. It takes a malfunctioning piece of educational equipment to show everyone the power of imagination. This is a glorified look at our race but also a delightful one. The comment some people I’ve seen saying that scientists are portrayed as not being able to be creative is in itself rubbish and a pretentious statement. They’re aliens and its fiction so get over yourself.
Like with all new ideas there are teething problems as the school try to put on a new introduced Shakespeare play. I can’t remember the exact wording but the title is something like “Two families hate each other, their children fall in love but then kill themselves at the end” This had me apologising to fellow tram passengers for belly laughing and interrupting their Silvia Day enjoyment.
Terra begins to gain a unique perspective on the worlds involved and feels like she can make a difference, which gets called into question when Furr faces a horrific war.
This book isn’t going to change the way we think about Science Fiction but what it does do is take the reader on a tight and enjoyable journey with interesting and fleshed out characters. Bravo Mitch Benn, looking forward to your next one. No pressure 😉
I apologize in advance to Gollancz for the amount of book pitches that I’m going to tweet you
TERRA is published by Gollancz and is available now