Friday, November 25, 2016

Blonde Bombshell - Tom Holt

   2010; 382 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Humorous Science Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Our galactic neighbors, the Ostar, have decided to blow up planet Earth.  This ought to be easily accomplished since Terran technology is far inferior to theirs.  So it was quite the surprise when the first bomb sent our way, named “Mark One”, disappeared and Earth went right on …erm… existing.  Now Mark Two has arrived, with two objectives – find out how the Earthlings defeated the first bomb.  And upon determining that, pulverize our planet.

    Of course, anyone who reads science fiction can tell you that this is neither the first nor the last that some alien civilization foolishly tries to annihilate us.  They always fail.  But at least the Ostar have a rather unique reason for doing so.

    We play our music too loud and it’s driving them crazy.

What’s To Like...
    Blonde Bombshell is another fine Tom Holt effort, replete with his trademark zaniness and wit.  It is a little unusual for him to venture into a science fiction, but the nice thing about bizarre storytelling is that it can be adapted to any genre.  We follow the story from various characters’ perspectives.  The main ones are:

    Lucy Pavlov.  Who is fabulously rich, incredible talented, but can’t remember anything about her childhood.
    George Stetchkin.  Who can’t remember anything before his latest hangover.
    Mark Two.  The sentient computer in Bomb #2, who can’t keep his directives from clashing.
    The Director.  At corporate headquarters on planet Ostar. 
    Two men who are definitely not werewolves.

    All of them are coping as best they can.  None of them has a clue as to what’s going on.  I like protagonists like that.

    The story is written in “English”, as opposed to “American”, and that's always a plus with me.  The primary setting for the story is a place called Novosibirsk, which I at first thought was an imaginary city, but which turns out to be the third largest metropolis in Russia.

    There aren’t a lot of characters, so keeping them straight is easy.  On Ostar, it’s the dogs that are the evolutionary …um… top dogs, and a lot of them have human pets that love to chase sticks and receive treats for doing good.  The Global Society for the Ethical Treatment of Dumb Brutes is a much-loved humanitarian group on Ostar.

    As in any Tom Holt novel, the plotline meanders like a drunken sot, but nobody cares.  It’s the mayhem and witty writing that count, and there’s plenty of both here.  All the threads get tied up at the end, and Earth (or “Dirt” as the Ostar mistakenly call us) is saved.  Which is not a spoiler since you’re reading this review.

Kewlest New Word ...
Doddle (n.) : a very easy task.  (a Britishism)
Others : Strimmer(n.).

    Ostar, he thought: rings a bell.  He dived into the furthest recesses of his memory.  Ostar, he was pretty sure, was the German word for Austria.
    That clinched it.  Austria, he knew, was right next to Switzerland, in Europe, with mountains.  Switzerland was where they had loads of posh banks, so presumably they had a few in Austria, too, the ones that wouldn’t fit in Switzerland, a notoriously small country.  And Austria must be a pretty fair dinkum sort of a country, or why had they called Australia after it?  (pg. 112)

    She watched his face go from worried to happy-busy.  Human males were, she’d come to realise, basically very simple mechanisms; more complex than a hinge, but much less sophisticated than a door handle.  Essentially, they were a variety of a valve.  Push them one way and they’d stick, lead them the other way and they’d open up and follow.  In software rather than hardware terms, if you confronted them they sulked, but if you let them think they’d won and then gave them a problem to solve, they passed beyond amenable into potentially useful.  (pg. 260)

An alien race capable of building a weapon as subtle, insidious and devastating as a violin sonata mustn’t be underestimated.  (pg. 15)
    Blonde Bombshell is arguably Tom Holt’s best-known novel.  I remember it being featured at the local bookstores, and it was probably what caused me to start picking up Holt’s books anytime I came across them at the used-book stores.  Since then I’ve read and reviewed 13 of his tales, and I’m at a loss as to why I never got around to reading his signature opus.

    Appreciating Tom Holt books is an acquired taste, and his wacky humor, bumbling protagonists, and errant plotlines will not appeal to everyone.  But I’ve been entertained every time I've read one of his stories.

    8 Stars.  If you’ve never read a Tom Holt novel, Blonde Bombshell is as good of a place to start as any.

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