- The good: over-the-top in-your-face glitter glam in the name of peace, love, and understanding
- The bad: minimal science fiction ideas
- The literary: a decent imitation of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy humor
Mankind finally makes first contact and finds a galaxy full of a variety of intelligent space-faring species. Instead of diplomats, one-hit-wonder London band Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, known for inventing the the entire electro-funk glamgrind genre, are chosen to represent Earth in the Metagalactic Grand Prix. As long as they don’t get last place in the talent show extravaganza, humanity won’t be obliterated.
This book is absurd and it knows it. It’s mostly and overwhelmingly big and bold, lipstick and electric guitar solos, but it’s also fragile and tender, facing overwhelming odds and the extinction of the human species, which comes through at little in the third act. Get used to the outlandish nonsensical comedy, because that’s what makes this book. There’s a lot of types of humor that gets thrown around, and I have to admit to chuckling aloud on multiple occasions. That said, I glossed over even more.
You’ll need to suspend your disbelief for this story. A lot. You have to let it go. It’s not science fiction so much as an homage to 70’s and 80’s rock big-hair rock music and its after parties. Be ready for endless pop-culture references à la Ready Player One, with less video games and more Spinal Tap.
There’s a little message in there too. Life is beautiful and life is stupid, so be nice to each other. Don’t be an asshole. Embrace art. Reject sexism, racism and transphobia. (As a side note, I find it quite west-centric to have a washed-out English band chosen to represent the human species. If the aliens wanted blingy and weird, they could have picked Grimes or BTS.)
Unfortunately, the characters, plot, scifi ideas suffer at the expense of the humor.
Life is the ultimate narcissist, and it loves nothing more than showing off. Give it the jankiest glob of fungus on the tiniest flake of dried comet-vomit wheeling drunkenly around the most underachieving star in the middle of the most depressing urban blight the cosmos has to offer, and in a few billion years, give or take, you’ll have a teeming society of telekinetic mushroom people worshipping the Great Chanterelle and zipping around their local points of interest in the tastiest of lightly browned rocket ships.