Smallworld: A Science Fiction Adventure Comedy
by Dominic Green
Published December 17, 2010, Fingerpress Ltd.
SmallWorld is a comic science fiction novel, and a pretty decent one. It is perhaps a bit over-the-top for the average science fiction fan, although the humor is of the slightly more 'serious' sort; reminiscent of Walter Jon Williams rather than Douglas Adams. Its biggest selling point is that it is currently available for free for the Kindle, and therefore well worth sampling.
The story is set on an asteroid that the local religious sect has named Mount Ararat. This asteroid is an abnormality by any number of standards. It is quite small, but has its own atmosphere and approximately 0.5 Earth gravity, due to a lump of super-dense matter at its center. The asteroid is hollow, and possibly of artificial construction. It may be haunted. It is clearly one of the most dangerous places in the universe.
The small population of religious settlers that eke out a living through farming mutated potatoes on its surface do not concern themselves with such abnormalities. This is especially the case once most of the original settlers are killed by demons, leaving a population that consists entirely of Mr. and Mrs. Reborn-In-Jesus and a large clan of orphaned children, none of the latter older than 13. These survivors are extremely practical and independent, and do not take well to outsiders edging in on their asteroid. Unfortunately, a surprising number of outsiders make an appearance over the years, requiring dramatic and exciting response from the settlers.
This 'novel' is actually closer in structure to a collection of semi-independent novellas, all about the Reborn-In-Jesus family and their many god-children. We hear about the day that the megalithic Tetsushuri Mining Company came to extract the asteriod's super dense core (for the good of the human species); the day that an autonomous prison unit landed with a cargo of dangerous criminals in an inescapable, self-contained solitary confinement unit; the invasion of Von Neumann machines (maybe); the day the IRS came to violently audit the asteroid; the day a psychotic mass-murderer came to town; the other day that a psychotic mass-murderer came to town; and the day that they decided to build a luxury spa. (Not necessarily in that order).
SmallWorld is reasonably well-written and intelligent. It has the lighthearted feeling of The Stainless Steel Rat or, at times, Paranoia, although it has been updated to include more accurate and modern science. While it is hardly hard science fiction, the author does make an attempt to keep things mostly scientificy -- and if faster than light travel and curing radiation poisoning seem to be taken for granted, this is no worse a sin than many much more serious novels make. The story is fast-moving and full of new amusements, with inventive twists and inventions. Unfortunately, it falls in to the all-too-common trap of believing that violence is comedy, and slowly eases into a state of prolonged bloodbath. It does not carry this to the extent of some train wrecks, but it does detract from an otherwise pleasing tale.
There is currently one sequel to Smallworld, Littlestar, which follows the children as they enter adulthood. Information about these books, and other manuscripts of Dominic Green's writings are available at his website.