Chewing Gum for the Mind

Three quarters through War and Peace (for the fourth time; I’m blaming Mario Vargas Llosa), I’m in need of some light entertainment. You know the kind I mean: the sort of book in which you can just keep moving your eye along the line, keep turning the pages and never once be bothered by a single thought arising. A chewing gum for the mind.

So I dug out an outrageous space opera by Stephen Ames Berry.

The Biofab War & its Sequels

I can no longer even begin to speculate as to what bizarre search string I must have entered into the Amazon search bar four years ago to be rewarded by a book called The Biofab War… the kind of title normally I’d run for dear life from. (I mean biofab?! Good grief!) But it was free, so what the hell, I downloaded it. Then I bought the following three volumes because I was curious to find out to what lengths the author was prepared to go.

He went all the way.

(Hats off to him.)

The Ultimate (Self-Published) Space Opera

There’s everything in this book, or rather this series of four books, that you can possibly expect to find in a space opera, from telekinetic and telepathic green bugs hell-bent on destroying humanity to AIs – similarly hell-bent on destroying humanity. A fallen galactic Empire, corsairs, mind-slavers, brain-stripped soldiers, mind-wiped populations, homicidal super-computers, blaster shoot-outs, assassins, political intrigue, battle-globes, an entire fleet lost in jump space to be recalled at just the right moment (of course!), the plague, alternative universes, two Earths… drinks that can be dialled out of the arms of armchairs.

Image by TP Heinz via Pixabay (Public domain)
Image by TPHeinz via Pixabay (CC0 Public domain)

I whole-heartedly admire Berry for:

  • His coolheaded and complete disregard for the laws of physics
  • His dedication to finely chiselled, stereotypical characters
  • His uncontrolled urge for action, Action, ACTION!!!

The author slammed this story down on paper, pardon, tip-tapped it into his computer, in a moment of boredom for his own amusement (at least, that’s my theory). It may have been given the spell-checker treatment but certainly never saw an editor’s red pen; I doubt Berry ever so much as read it through after he finished typing. But if you can overlook that he occasionally forgot who is who or who said what earlier, and if you don’t mind that on occasion you have no idea who’s cracking that stony-faced joke… well, then it’s fine.

I’m not willing to recommend The Biofab War and its sequels to anybody. When it comes to chewing gum, you alone know the flavours you prefer. But the truth is this is just the kind of glorious rubbish that I habitually make up to entertain myself on my daily commute, except I never go to the extreme of writing any of it down. Every time I pick this one up, its outrageousness makes me smile.

Unsolicited Advice for Other Self-Publishing Authors

Take a leaf out of Berry’s book: Give away the first book for free, and include the first couple of chapters of the second book at the end. If you don’t get away with it, please, stop self-publishing.

You might also like:Tolstoy, Mario Vargas Llosa, My Grandmother and Me (On War & Peace)Nobody Writes Like Matthew ReillyThe Future in the Past (2001: A Space Odyssey)Return from the Stars 

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