01/06/2010. Contributed by Patrick Mahon
pub: Orbit. 362 page small hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK), $13.99 (US), $16.99 (CAN) . ISBN: 978-1-84149-778-5.
check out website: www.orbitbooks.net
Tom Holt is a prolific British author of comedy genre fiction. He has a large back catalogue, most of which is based on mythic or fantasy storylines. In 'Blonde Bombshell', however, Holt applies his trademark wit to Science Fiction instead.
The Ostar are a race of hyper-evolved dogs who keep selectively-bred humans as pets. When the peace of their planet is threatened by the curse of music, beamed across the light years on radio waves from Earth, they decide on a fairly robust response, launching a super-smart bomb to destroy the offending planet. When this bomb mysteriously fails in its mission, disappearing without a trace, they are not discouraged. They simply send a second, improved model to finish the job.
The Mark Two bomb, not wanting to get caught by whatever defence mechanisms the Earth deployed against its predecessor, sends a human-shaped probe called Mark Twain, 'Twain' being a better surname than 'Two', down to the planet to investigate. Its searches lead to Lucy Pavlov, the mysterious blonde bombshell of the title, who happens to run the largest IT company on the planet and whose software is so far ahead of its time, it could almost have been written by aliens. Mark Two/Twain promptly falls in love with her.
We also meet George Stetchkin, a brilliant former scientist who has somehow ended up in a well-paid but soul-destroying job as head of security for a multi-national bank on Earth. Perhaps, understandably, he's an alcoholic. However, when trillions of dollars spontaneously disappear from the bank's top security vaults in full view of the CCTV cameras, it is George who manages, despite a stonking hangover, to work out what's happened to them. He concludes that the money was stolen by aliens. Probably the same aliens who stole his pet dog when he was a child. When he shares his conclusions with the bank's board, they unaccountably display their gratitude by sacking him. Not long afterwards, however, Lucy Pavlov calls him out of the blue and invites him to her office for a meeting. Being unexpectedly unemployed, George accepts. When he gets there, Lucy asks him about, yes, you guessed it, aliens.
Meanwhile, Mark Twain wrestles with the conflict between his primary mission, to destroy the Earth, and his new-found love for one particular resident of that planet. He realises that he may be evolving into something new when he starts lying to the main bomb up in orbit. At this point, Lucy, George and Mark unite in their efforts to save the Earth. At the same time, they start to wonder whether it can really be true that Ostar wants to obliterate the Earth simply because we've been playing our music too loudly?
As you may have guessed from the previous paragraphs, 'Blonde Bombshell' has a pretty convoluted plot. It is however handled confidently by Holt, who makes the story flow very naturally. At the same time, he keeps the jokes coming thick and fast. I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly at the set-piece gags that litter the pages.
It's difficult to find any serious faults with this book. There were a few typos in the proof copy I read but I'm sure these will have been corrected in the final version of the text. Otherwise, I can't think of anything that didn't ring true, given the absurdist nature of the storyline.
Overall, this is another highly amusing novel from Tom Holt. If you like genre comedy along the lines of Terry Pratchett and you read Science Fiction, I'm sure you'll enjoy 'Blonde Bombshell'.
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