A New Treatise on a Small Blue Planet

Author: Michael K. Robinson
Vanguard Press / Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie Publishers
RRP: 7.99, US $11.99
ISBN: 978 1 8438 6335 9
Available 14 May 2007

Eventually we knew that even in this backwater of the galaxy we would one day be discovered, but would it be by alien minds far superior to our own. When that fateful meeting took place how would they view the oddities in thought and behaviour that make up the inconsistent being that we call human. Now the truth can be told. Now, the horror of the reality can be unfolded, because when we do meet face to face they turn out to be as screwed up and wacky as we all are...

A New Treatise on a Small Blue Planet is the new novel by Michael K. Robinson, the basic premise of which is the first meeting between an alien race and us. That said, it's a little like saying that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was about a bloke who left Earth, as both books use their premise to explore some of the more surreal behaviours and beliefs that surround human beings. Both books also employ humour in this examination, and is what the movie Morons from Outer Space (1985) could have been, if it had had a good script.

With the exception of Major Mishmash, the book is full of wonderfully realised oddballs whose oddities are kept in check, enough to be great comic characters without them descending into caricatures. The extreme nature of Mishmash can be forgiven as he is the only character in the book that gets into extreme situations due to his equal measures of stupidity, cowardice and arrogance. He is also the character who get all the best bizarre moments. I particularly like the part where he and two underlings are mistaken, for some out of town rich guys out for a good time, by a trio of transvestite prostitutes, who mistake their drunkenness for compliance and provide them with a night of screaming queens and spanking.

The other characters are less extreme, which makes them a little more rounded. Their innate lack of fundamental stupidity also means that the situations that they find themselves in tend to derive their comedy from misunderstandings between the two races. The expedition to Earth is split into two, one under the command of Mishmash and another under the command of the slightly more sensible Captain Dar. Her character is used to explore the absurdities that arise from interaction between beings who lack a common frame of reference. Misunderstanding even figure in their efforts to blend in when they pick up earlyish television signals and decide that to blend in they are required to dress anachronistically and drive around in Robin Reliants.

The book is jam packed with nice little asides that, whilst they do not progress the plot, nevertheless, pulled a smile out of me on most every page, like the explanation of 314159's Dipstick or the song lyrics which are dotted throughout the book which loose a lot in translation, a serious case of misheard lyrics.

If Douglas Adams has an heir then that man is Michael K Robinson, read his novel with care or else you may just get carted away for giggling to yourself on a bus. The book is so well written and so full of memorable characters, witty asides and one liners that it is a no brainer as a recommendation for any fan of Adam's work.

Charles Packer

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