|It's Always Spring Break Somewhere In The Galaxy|
by Raven C.S. McCracken
Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll. With aliens.
Another self published book, this one is not half bad. It's Always Spring Break... styles itself after The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, and does indeed have a lot in common with that classic series. It's fun, full of weird aliens, the mysterious lurking Administrative computers keeping everyone in line, a fairly live and let live galaxy full of a wide variety of aliens who take newcomers in stride - and some hapless humans taking a road trip to the stars in the middle of it all.
I think the term I'm looking for is pulp science fiction - where science just gets out of the way and lets people do Stuff That Is Cool, everything is a bit campy, and it's all about the adventure. This is not a book for people who care about realism, in any way, or are bugged by humanoid or animal based aliens (though to be fair, there are some plain weird ones as well), or self-centered college kids.
In this case, it's about three kids in a band (late teens or early twenties), and the girl they casually kidnap on departure, who put together a spaceship out of an old bus and literally go tour the galaxy. Where it turns out that not only is music generally awful, but the current 'greatest' band is actively killing off the competition, under the guidance of a grotesque and sinister manager... Among other complications. Like the fact they're carrying with them an escaped clone from an enormous and powerful corporation, who want her to come back and do her job. Ultimately, these conflicting interests have to clash. And when they do, will they finally attract the attention of the distant, overworked and computerised Administration?
While there were a few proof reading errors, they were minor - maybe half a dozen in the whole book. The sex scenes were of the 'fade' to black' type, which was a wise choice on the author's part - the campy scifi style was not suited to tender moments of an erotic nature, and worked much better for the banter and music parts of the story. The first third of the book was very jumpy with the flashbacks and scene setting, right up until they finally walk into their first alien nightclub and the story takes off properly.
Dan is the leader, the ultimate cool kid (that's not necessarily a compliment, but he's clearly the author's favourite character). His dad had some mysterious books which reveal tricks to learning - allowing Dan to easily perform near impossible intellectual feats of memorisation and calculation. So Dan, and his long time best friend Lisa, basically skip high school and whiz through their doctoral degrees at university. The rest of the time, they play together as a local band. After his (very rich) father suddenly dies, Dan goes into withdrawal, then throws himself into the creation of a new technology, the Coil - which allows him and his friends to take a trip into space.
Lisa is happily bisexual, a doctor (due to Dan's little lessons) - who enjoys beating people up, riots, and mayhem. We first meet her in scene in which she's arguing with her father over whether she can marry her current girlfriend - she heeds his advice that it might hurt her chances of becoming a doctor, but I got the impression it was a teenage whim rather than a lifelong commitment. She's certainly cheerfully single a few years later... until Christine comes along, and Lisa promptly hustles her into bed. Oh, the first couple of scenes that Lisa hits on Christine did strongly scream ' a guy wrote this' - but it does get better after that.
Pony is the drummer, and the most likeable band member. A big guy, he's the one who tries not to break things by looming to much, and tries to keep his friends steady. Poor Pony doesn't really get that much action when the rest of them pair off - Blixa ignores him for Dan, the other girls aren't interested in him, and even when he is interested in someone (an alien who rescues him from a screaming mob and follows them around to see their shows), he never really gets to stay and talk to her.
Christine isn't part of the band - she was just casually kidnapped by the group in case she saw something as they took of (which is, I think, a perfect example of their thoughtlessness - she couldn't have seen much or done anything, and they just dragged her off into space without so much as a 'by the way, you might want to cancel that bar exam you were planning on taking').
Christine swung between ditzy cheerleader, her speech peppered with breathlessness, wide eyes, 'like' and gasping, and a smart, capable and aggressive pilot and law student. I'm not quite sure if this was simply bad writing, or her actively suppressing the capable side of herself and gradually allowing it to emerge. Oh, and she's definitely a lesbian. And very hot. And apparently easily swept along by peer pressure.
Their first show causes a sensation, kicking off a tour of the planets and sell out concerts. As they skip around the galaxy, the band gradually realise just how big they are, and discover that the charming groupie they picked up is actually the target of a very large and scary organisation, who now has its eyes on their Coil technology.
This is one of the moral squick moments - Blixa cheerfully drugs and enthralls the two guys, and basically becomes Dan's girlfriend - something it was clear he would not have been interested in of his own accord. Technically, she also raped him, but it's okay, because she feels bad about drugging him and releases him, he's sad to lose the feeling of love and decides he still loves her.
I didn't really like most of the characters, although I don't say this as a criticism (unless they were meant to be likeable!) - they were shallow and selfish, and somewhat disconnected from other people. How much of this is just typical of the 'cool spoilt kids' attitude, and how much is due to their functional genius statuses, I'm not sure. Their personalities were fairly distinct, but took a while to emerge.
You can read an excerpt on Scribd - for some reason, this scene is repeated in full in the middle of the book, which was a bit tedious. It's not the best writing from the story by a long way, and I suspect it was picked because it features all the main characters, as well as an overview of their technology, while not actually giving away any plot.
So in conclusion...
Generally? While not classified as a lesbian book, it has plenty of lesbian/bisexual interactions, between the primary and supporting characters, and definitely falls under my idea of lesbian fiction. Pick this up if you like scifi, the rock and roll scene, or campy pulp fiction in general. Avoid, if you like slow serious romances, hate celebrity culture, and find the 'sexy and mysteriously compatible aliens' trope unbearably irritating.
It starts out a bit stiff, but definitely improves once the scene is set, everyone's on stage and the band can start playing - so to speak!
You can download It's Always Spring Break... for 99c on Amazon
And the author's website is at: http://ravencsmccracken.com/
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