Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: Terra by Mitch Benn

Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: May 8th, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon summary:

No-one trusts humanity. No-one can quite understand why we're intent on destroying the only place we have to live in the Universe. No-one thinks we're worth a second thought. And certainly no-one is about to let us get off Rrth. That would be a complete disaster. But one alien thinks Rrth is worth looking at. Not humanity, obviously, we're appalling, but until we manage to kill every other living thing on the planet there are some truly wonderful places on Rrth and some wonderful creatures living in them. Best take a look while they're still there. But on one trip to Rrth our alien biologist causes a horrendous accident. The occupants of a car travelling down a lonely road spot his ship (the sort of massive lemon-coloured, lemon-shaped starship that really shouldn't be hanging in the sky over a road). Understandably the Bradburys crash (interrupting the latest in a constant procession of bitter rows). And in the wreckage of their car our alien discovers a baby girl. She needs rescuing. From the car. From Rrth. From her humanity. And now 11 years later a girl called Terra is about to go to school for the first time. It's a very alien experience... 


I wasn't sure about Terra at first, mainly because of the unusual cover (that I now like) and difficult names that greeted me on the back cover. I don't do well with some fantasy/sci-fi names - I can't pronounce them right - but I eventually got used to those in Terra and actually ended up really enjoying it. It just goes to show that it's good to try different books and read outside your comfort zone!

Terra is a great satirical story that features truly brilliant characters and lots of British wit. It's about a little girl called Terra who is taken from Earth (Rrth) by an alien named Lbbp, raised on an orange-green planet called Fnrr and then finds herself at the centre of an intergalactic war. It's subtle in it's messages, mainly ones about Earth and its humans (Ymns) destroying themselves and everything they have, and it has a certain retro feel to it, like reading sci-fi fiction from decades ago. It's really an enjoyable reading experience from start to finish.

I did struggle with the strange names at first, I won't lie. Fnrr, Rrth, Lbbp, Ymns, Pshkf, Pktk... none of them are easy to say and none just roll off the tongue. By around page fifty I was pretty much used to them and had settled into my own pronunciations (whether they're right or wrong, I don't know) and eventually I could just read the words without having to stop and spell them out. I've never been good with languages and how to say stuff, so I knew this would be a bit of an obstacle for me. Thankfully, not one that was too bad!

My favourite part of Terra is the relationship between Terra and Lbbp. Obviously they're not related and have no ties to each other before Lbbp finds Terra on one of his trips to Earth, but yet they have a fantastic bond that is just like any other between a father and his daughter. They trust one another, talk about anything and, more importantly, respect each other and their differences. Although Terra left her real human parents behind, she doesn't ever want for anything because she has Lbbp, the best stepfather in all the galaxies.

Mitch Benn writes with a brilliant style, laced with deadpan humour and clever references that made me laugh on more than one occasion. Terra is definitely a book I'd categorise as 'unusual', though unusual in a good way, thanks to its somewhat unexpected tone and delivery. I'm looking forward to delving into the sequel, Terra's World, as things sound very different for Terra after the events of the first book. I hope all is well between Fnrr and Rrth!

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