The Earth Conundrum - Jeff Sims
This is one of those books that popped up in my recommendations on Amazon. Usually I have enough in my pipeline to not bother about those but occasionally I do go for them just to expand my horizons a bit. Quite often I find some new author that I like or at least another good book. This time I am afraid that my in the spur of the moment purchase was a bit of a mistake.
I am not sure whether the author wanted to make this book a comedy or if he was aiming for the young adult segment and aimed too low or whatever. In my point of view he failed with whatever he tried to do. This book is definitely not a book for adult military sci-fi readers and certainly not for hard core sci-fi fans. The story and especially the aliens are downright silly. Well, the core of the story is actually one of my favorite type of stories but the implementation is so nonsensical and silly that it is simply not fun to read. The book seems to float in some no-mans-land between a children’s book and a young adult book.
Note that the rest of this review might contain a mild spolier or two.
For starters the aliens believe that humans eat aliens. Not only the children believes this but the adult aliens of a star faring species, who allegedly have watched Earth for 300 years, actually believe that humans will eat them. Another little twist is that some of the aliens on the bridge of a military starship are having emotional fits and starts to cry every now and then. Apparently this is a racial trait. Yeah right, “sorry commander I missed the enemy battleship because I was crying at the time”. Not funny.
Then we have the alien navy in general, or whatever goes for a navy in the Alliance. Military discipline is non-existent and a commander can never rely on his orders being executed. When launching fighters he never knows if and when the fighters will launch since the pilots might be too scared that someone might shoot back at them. What the fuck! He even has to argue with defense and trafic control computers in order to be able to go where he is ordered to go. His XO is baffled when he is asked to get a corridor on the ship painted and in the end asks a civilian relative to do it…in a military stardock! Pilots have to haggle with some useless computer AI to get the missile loadout they need. Of course the alien pilots are totally clueless so they never know what they need but as you surely realize from the book blurb the humans are about to enter into the equation. Needless to say the humans do know what they need.
The nonsense continues when the Alliance council orders a mission to Earth, a mission vital to the survival of the Alliance, and assigns the mission to a small team who by all means are fairly likable but who are clueless about what is actually required for the mission to be a success and are, of course, not properly briefed about this in any way. To make matters worse these people go off on their own to make a few bucks and starts various businesses on Earth. As I wrote above the story is simply too nonsensical to be any fun. The authors knowledge of military matters seems to be next to none as well. The ludicrous alien navy might be an attempt to be funny but destroyers suddenly being larger than cruisers indicates to me that his military “expertise” comes from watching Star Wars.
It is really a shame with all this nonsens since the core of the story is a good one and it could have been a good book. There are a few saving graces. After all the fumbling around, stupidity and aliens running away as soon as the humans try to approach the them (humans eat aliens, remember?) eventually the humans finally gets the chance to show the alien nincompoops how a real military behaves. The results are highly predictable and these parts of the book was actually somewhat enjoyable to read. Not very realistic but quite fun.
Apart from these parts I struggled with dragging myself through most of the rest. I am afraid that this book, while managing to stay out of my rubbish shelf, ends up among my 2 out of 5 stars ratings on Goodreads where, so far, only 4 other books reside today (out of 79 books this year). This book ought to be more clearly marked as a children’s or, at least very very young adult, book on Amazon.