Monday, August 31, 2009

The Sheriff of Yrnameerby Michael Rubens

When we first meet Cole--just Cole--he's being dangled upside down by a many-eyed, many-tentacled debt collector with a rich, mellifluous voice named Kenneth. Since Cole is unable to pay his debt immediately Kenneth is about to deposit his eggs through Cole's eye socket and into his brain. Cole escapes, barely, and will continue to escape, barely, for the duration of the book.

Oh yes, The Sheriff of Yrnameer is that kind of book. It's antic, it's wacky, it's high concept, it's in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, with a little bit of Silverado and The Seven Samurai thrown in for good measure. It's also hilarious and surprisingly big hearted.

As the book opens a rapidly dwindling crew of dim-witted Bad Men, who keep getting killed (and killing each other) in truly horrible ways is approaching town. When they get there they intend to force the townspeople--who consist overwhelmingly of artists, writers, musicians, craftspeople, film-makers, and other folk who are free, if not strategic, thinkers--to give up all of their crops. What a boon when Cole, escaping his own demon(s) in a stolen space vehicle crash lands on their planet, in their town, and--much in the manner of Dorothy when she lands in Oz--right on top of the Bad Men. During the drunken revelry celebrating the temporary victory (because it's a very large band of Bad Men, and the squashed were just the first messengers) Cole is signed up as sheriff.

Some of the wacky highlights of the book include a shipload of freeze-dried orphans, a cast and crew of awesomely repulsive aliens, and the concept of a universe which, with the exception of the tiny planet of Yrnameer (a contraction for that old advertising come on: Your Name Here), is completely coopted by big business. Pop ups dance around people's heads, planets have names such as InVestCo3 (which resides in the Financial System), and the very dust on the ground forms into advertisements.

Michael Rubens has written a thoroughly enjoyable, compulsively readable science fiction romp, and I look foward to his next.

I leave you with this, explaining why Cole ran from his home planet, and continues to run to this day (and explaining why you just want to keep on reading):

"You could run away and you'd end up in exactly the same place, the surroundings interchangeable, the inhabitants nearly so. Cole knew it because he'd done it. Several times. He'd end up back in his room again, moodily smoking whatever he could get his hands on, the sole source of light in the room the faint radioactive glow coming from the commemorative chunk of Earth in its crystal cube, inscribed with the famous quote from the Administration. AT LEAST WE GOT THE TERRORISTS, it said."

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