Let me just get this out of the way: I am not the biggest sci-fi fan out there. What I’ve read, seen and played over the years I’ve enjoyed, but I’m quite picky about what I consume in the genre of ‘scientific fictionalness’. I don’t own any Peter F. Hamilton (because I try to make a habit of not owning literature that needs to be weighed on truck scales) and I’ve only read one Douglas Adams novel.
However, I am a fan of Will Save The Galaxy For Food’s author: a, one, Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw who most will know as the fast-talking British ex-pat, whose acerbic video game reviews have won the hearts of many fans and the utter contempt of a large portion of the gaming industry.
Will Save…is his third novel.
After the invention of quantum teleportation, space heroes have become a dying breed who make their living as guides for bored tourists. No one needs to venture out into the cold recesses of an uncaring universe anymore when one can move instantly from place to place.
When the protagonist is hired by the assistant of a dangerous crime lord, he assumes the identity of well-known (and hugely hated) author/fraudster, Jacques McKeown, to show the man’s unappreciative son around the cosmos.
What follows is an up-and-down rollercoaster of space exploration that puts (the now) Mr McKeown back in the driving seat of peril and sends all on board into an escapade of kidnapping, espionage, daring heroism and weird sexual tension.
As a comedy reviewer, Yahtzee is very much a star in his own right, being the sole creator of the popular Zero Punctuation series. He has played and critiqued games from just about every genre of the industry that’s around and his professional insight is what fuels not just this novel, but his previous two.
What Will Save The Galaxy For Food is, is a humorous homage to science fiction tales. The protagonist is a sarcastic hero with the kind of dumb luck that keeps the story in motion without losing too much of the tension (it’s that classic “how will they get out of this jam?” situation)
The narrative zig-zags from place to place and character to character which breathes a kind of slapstick life into Yahtzee’s world that would not be too amiss in an episode of Futurama. There’s a hint of the cartoonish without it being too silly, and a dab of ironic cornball antics that pay tribute to science fiction as a genre in itself.
As a gaming veteran and notable card, it’s easy to see how his sharp wit and descriptive eye could easily translate into novel form. However, readers should be made aware that what is seen in his hilarious videos is not the same as what is shown on the page. This is something I’ve noticed with other well-known comedians who turn to novel writing (Ben Elton comes to mind) who’s on-screen work does not always match a book written by the same author.
Yahtzee has stated in the past that his only dream growing up was to be a writer. While Will Save…is 285 pages of exciting adventuring, that sardonic bite and comedy raciness that has made him an online sensation is sorely missing. It’s quite clear that his ZP series is his bread and butter – his absolute A formation – while his novels (I include the previous two in this) are more of a labour of love.
Will Save…is a fun read with enough colour in the scenery and fast-paced writing to keep the story charged up. But it’s not what fans might expect after watching ZP for so many years and sometimes there are a few too many run-on analogies, such as this one on page 155:
He caught the look on my face, which must have been similar to the look a child wears when they come downstairs unexpectedly on Christmas Eve and find their parents eating the cookies meant for Santa.
It’s a fine story that actually has a lot of appeal for different audiences, and it’s written in an engaging way that doesn’t try to sell it above what it is: a generous nod to science fiction as a whole. It’s just people will compare it to his video game work, which seems unfair, but is to be expected. Just go in with lower expectations if that’s what you’re after.