Book Reviews


Ian Taylor: Spindle
5 stars

Ian Taylor: Spindle

Publisher: BookSurge

Title: Spindle
Author: Ian Taylor
ISBN: 978-1-419-60873-5
Publisher: BookSurge
Pages: 257

Spindle is a slapstick science fiction novel.

Spindle is a slapstick science fiction novel. It's inevitable that it'll be compared with Red Dwarf and Hitchhiker's Guide. And, since it has all of the bizarre, zero-gravity-bound characters and exploding planets which are necessary to qualify for such comparisons, I couldn't help noticing similarities too.

The hero, Peter Turner, is earnest but clueless. He's just joined Space Force, as a law officer, and is being dispatched on a voyage into Deep Space's Ataxic Sector with only two weeks' basic training! The story begins with a farsical account of Peter's encounter with a computerised security device at the space port where he's due to embark on his ship.

Farce is a truly appropriate word for everything which happens from that point onwards. The whole book is hilarious and utterly ridiculous. It's obvious from the outset that it was written both to amuse and entertain. With evident purpose, and also right from its very beginning, Ian Taylor's comic story of the voyages of the spaceship, Spindle, and its mismatched-two-man crew, does exactly that.

Peter's first meeting with his antisocial space partner, Oblun, is conducted in a spaceship airlock, while Oblun is being obstinate, uncooperative, sarcastic and vindictive all at the same time, and all whilst facing in the opposite direction from Peter and not wearing any trousers! Throughout the story, Oblun, (the side of their space partnership with all of the knowledge and experience,) never does improve his behaviour either!

However, Oblun is most definitely not alone with his misanthropic tendencies. The first group of aliens that the pair encounter, the Bolandi, require an automatic translation device which translates not from an alien language into English, but from insults into compliments! If I'd not been laughing at the time that I read about it, Taylor's device would have reminded me of Orwell's Newspeak and Oldspeak. Not only is Taylor's fictional Bolandian communication absurd, Peter finds that his Space Force regulations are completely nonsensical and also that Space Force computer records measure enemy combatants' deathrates in meaningless fractions!

The pair then travel through the Ataxic Sector, ostensibly solving murders and generally fighting intergalactic crime. But in reality Peter has no idea what he's doing, and Oblun finds it preferable to watch his new partner struggle rather than offer to help.

Eventually, battered, bruised and almost killed on several occasions by a bewildering variety of odd encounters and strange creatures, Peter Turner comes to realise that perhaps Oblun's abrasive and disrespectful approach to space flight, the universe in general and authority, (in whatever form,) has its advantages after all.

My recommendations for this book:

It's a great, though extremely silly story. But if you loved The Hitchhiker's Guide and Red Dwarf, and if you love the sharp and flippant wit of good science fiction comedy, then you'll love this book without a doubt. I took great pleasure from reading it. And take the same amount of pleasure in recommending this book highly.

Review by Patrick Mackeown, March 2008


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