A sentient bomb is hurtling through outer space toward Earth, better known to the bomb creators as Dirt. You see, Dirt’s music is making the inhabitants of Ostar (a canine species) completely loony. But the bomb stops in its tracks and orbits around Dirt to try to figure out whatever happened to the *first* bomb that the Ostars sent out. Dirt doesn’t seem to have any sophisticated defense system to speak of, so what gives? Meanwhile, Lucy Pavlov, the creator of new computer programming protocols that led to a leap in technology, is seeing unicorns in her forest. Also a bank security executive is trying to figure out just how, exactly, money is teleporting out of banks. In between getting very drunk and trying to forget about that one time aliens stole his dog.
This made it onto my TBR pile thanks to multiple comparisons to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which is one of my favorite series. I can completely understand why the comparison is made. The book is witty, zany, and consists of a hilarious imagining of outer space and aliens.
The plot is complex without being confusing. It revolves around three people (well, one is a bomb) who are connected in mysterious ways they just don’t know yet. It kept me guessing, managed to surprise me a few times, and had some delightfully creative elements, such as the fact that the bomb can create probes to send down to Earth that appear to humans like organic matter. Or even the fact that the bomb can sit there and slowly decide whether or not to go off. Clever.
I also appreciated an imagined future where people have handheld devices that are given a simple name rather than compounding a bunch of words together. The former makes more sense since in reality that is what companies do. (For instance, Google Glass or iPad as opposed to handheldpersonaldevice. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen something very similar to that in scifi). In this book the iPhone device is the Warthog. With no further explanation given. This is scifi done well. The reader can tell what a Warthog is from how the characters use it. Holt never over-explains.
The characters were rather two-dimensional, but that works well for the humor, not to mention for the fact that one of them is a bomb. If a character has a good heart but is a lazy drunk because aliens stole his dog, well that’s enough for the reader to know in a book like this. Motivation enough is present for the characters to be recognizable as people and to move the plot forward.
As for the humor, I found it quite witty, although not quite as gut-wrenching as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It plays on slapstick, situational humor, and pop culture references for the most part, with a dash of insight into human nature, romantic relationships, and dogs. I particularly enjoyed the unicorn probe who takes a nasty turn for the violent and insists that there is data in human records showing unicorns exist. I also really enjoyed the scenes where a couple first starts to fall in love, hilariously so. All of which is to say, if you generally enjoy a Douglas Adams style of humor, you won’t be disappointed.
Now, I was a bit let-down by the ending. I didn’t really like the final plot twist. It kind of….creeped me out a bit and left me on a bit of a down note instead of the delightful upswing I felt throughout the rest of the book. I think other people might enjoy it more than me. It really depends on your feelings about people and pets and having pets. It’s not enough of a let-down to keep me from recommending or enjoying the book. It was just enough to keep it from 5 stars.
Overall, this is a delightfully witty piece of scifi with a unique plot. Recommended to scifi humor fans, particularly those who enjoy Douglas Adams.
4 out of 5 stars