Saturday 10 January 2009

Passing For Human - Jody Scott

I missed this book when it first came out (and only came across it as I’m obsessively filling in the gaps in my Women’s Press science fiction collection). This was my loss.

The basic story is fairly straightforward sf fare. Alien anthropologists study earth, despair at humans, decide they are a disease that needs wiping out, whilst doing battle with other aliens who wish to enslave humanity (and perhaps produce what would be the most frighteningly efficient and expendable race of warriors the galaxy has ever seen).

In the hands of a lesser writer that could have been a big, steaming pile of schlock. In the hands of Jody Scott, it is a funny, compassionate, and rip-roaring adventure that exposes the flaws in the alien cultures just as readily as it exposes our own.

The pace of the story never lets up, yet it finds room for serious contemplation of humanity’s woes. The style is easy, with an edge of noir. The central character is a bit of a tough girl which, mixed with her naivety about humans, makes for an intriguing and likeable character. Especially as she (in common with the other aliens) inhabits bodies she has chosen from Earth culture – Brenda Starr, Emma Peel, and Virginia Woolf. Who could not like that, especially the final scenes in which Virginia Woolf is involved in a running gun battle.

The humour, pace, and wry observation make this a rare and wonderful beast – a serious science fiction novel that doesn’t take itself seriously.