6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I always run the risk of a backlash every time I say something like, "This was fun, but it won't change your life" because that's when I meet the person to whom this is the finest piece of literature of all time. That said, I stand by my statement and chances are it won't be contested any time soon. I do find it odd that I'm only the second comment, with the first one being from sometime in the last century. I didn't think the book was that obscure, but what do I know. I don't know what else Colin Greenland has written but this is the novel that is generally mentioned most often and it really is an entertaining slice of prototypical SF, definitely in the Heinlein mode with a lot of the contraversial edges sandpapered off. The story concerns an adventure in the life of Tabitha Jute, the captain of a cargo ship, a lady in the mold of the SF hero, as she's full of what we used to call "pluck", a sassy, no-nonsense woman that is nearly fearless, never short of ideas on how to get out of a situation, someone that doesn't need a man to complete her life but isn't adverse to taking one to bed if he strikes her fancy. However, she's also sensitive and slightly vulnerable and certainly not one of those boring square-jawed Buck Rogers types that populate so many other SF novels. Your mileage may vary on how much of this you see as breaking cliches or simply creating new ones, but Greenland makes her three-dimensional enough so that she's by turns knowledeable and frightened, out of her element and in total control, depending on how things go. And they do. Taken in by a pretty face, she takes a job for what she thinks is travelling group of local performers, basically just agreeing to shuttle them from one place to another (she doesn't want to, but her ship desperately needs repairs). It turns out that the group is a real bunch of weirdos, they may not be what they say they are, and even when they say what they are, that might not be true either. The plot progresses at a maddening pace, only stopping to catch its breath during interludes where Tabitha talks to the ship and tells it stories about past adventures, which are actually pretty interesting and many of them are designed to set up plot twists that occur later in the book, plus showcase Tabitha's take-no-crap personality. The plot does have an element of "this happened and then this happened and then this happened and then . . ." which is to say that it's rather linear, although Greenland does keep the surprises coming, mostly through revelations and shifts in plot because of those revelations. Where the book really shines is the setting, Greenland sets up a universe where the solar system has been sealed off for apparently arbitrary reasons by a race of powerful beings called the Capellans, who seem to exist purely to annoy other intelligent races. This is where the planet Plenty comes in (it's not as predominant as the title or the description on the back of the book would have you believe, although it does play an important role) and the interplay of the various factions in the setting serve as a nice backdrop and an impetus for much of what goes on. There's a lot of interesting ideas, mostly with the alien races and some of Tabitha's stories seem to exist so that Greenland can show off some neat idea, which is perfectly all right because the ideas really are pretty darn neat. In the end, it's a nice, readable package that goes down quickly and easily, functioning purely as entertainment and not a bad way at all to spend a few hours. Science-fiction could use more books like this, well constructed novels brimming with some fascinating ideas and concepts that don't strive to achieve some sort of pseudo-literary status (and those people know who they are) and serve as a pleasant diversion for however long it takes you to read it. Not every book needs to make our heads hurt. And this is a fine example of how to do that right.