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The Sheriff Of Yrnameer by Michael Rubens

01/03/2010. Contributed by Patrick Mahon

Buy The Sheriff Of Yrnameer in the USA - or Buy The Sheriff Of Yrnameer in the UK

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Michael Rubens' first novel, 'The Sheriff Of Yrnameer', is a Science Fiction comedy.

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Michael Rubens' first novel, 'The Sheriff Of Yrnameer', is a Science Fiction comedy. It therefore occupies the same territory as countless classics by such luminaries as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Can it stand up against such eminent competitors?

Cole is a soft-hearted wheeler-dealer who never seems to get a break. When we meet him, he's being held upside down by a well-spoken alien mobster called Kenneth, who plans to cancel the large gambling debt Cole owes him by laying eggs in his brain. Faced with a horrible death, Cole does what he does best, blags his way out of Kenneth's hands, then runs away and steals a spaceship. Problem is, the spaceship is already loaded with cargo, a consignment of freeze-dried orphans. These are heading for a new life on the only remaining planet in the galaxy that is not corporately sponsored, a semi-mythical planet called Yrnameer ('Your name here' - geddit?). It seems as good a place as any to hide from Kenneth, so Cole agrees to pilot the ship there, not least because the cargo owner is a very attractive woman called Nora.

On the way, Cole has to contend with the usual hazards of space travel. A robotic cop tries to destroy his ship as a punishment for speeding. Low on power, he tries to re-fuel at a satellite that offers training courses to large corporations. The satellite seems like a blessed relief, until they notice that the suits on board are starting to transform into flesh-eating zombies. It turns out that the neural implants that are supposed to train them in advanced management-speak don't quite work as designed.

When they do eventually get to Yrnameer, Cole thinks his troubles are over. Unsurprisingly, he's wrong. Hailed as a hero for bringing the orphans safely home, Cole gets drunk and regales everyone with inflated tales of his own derring-do. Next morning, he wakes up to find that he has drunkenly agreed to be the new sheriff in town. It's a small, out of the way town on a small, out of the way planet. How much crime can there be? Lots, it turns out. The residents forgot to tell him that there's a gang of thugs due to visit shortly and they've pledged to kill everyone if they don't get what they want. So can Cole save his own skin, save the day and get the girl?

The back flap of the dust jacket tells us that Rubens is a television writer and producer. This shows in both good and bad ways. On the one hand, he has an easy way with words and his pacing is good. The story therefore flows well enough. On the other hand, my main gripe about this book is the almost constant use of clichéd character types and situations. Cole is a cliché. Kenneth is a cliché. Nora is a…well, you get the picture. Equally, the central plot point, that an outsider has to help the residents of a small town to fight off a group of violent criminals, can hardly be said to be without precedent.

However, this is a first novel and it has its strengths as well as its weaknesses. There are lots of individual laugh out loud gags throughout the book and if you stay the course, the last hundred pages are very entertaining.

'The Sheriff Of Yrnameer' is an enjoyable enough first novel which has many moments to enjoy in amongst a number of flaws. Rubens' writing is not on the level of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams but it shows potential. If he can find a way to add that spark of true originality to his writing, he could have a promising future as a comic novelist. I'll watch out for his second book with interest.

Patrick Mahon

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