The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold
The Book of Ralph by Christopher Steinsvold is a comedy with a message. When a sign “Drink Diet Coke” suddenly, mysteriously appears on the moon, everyone on earth just assumes somehow Coca-Cola had managed to do this. The backlash against Coke is massive, but what no-one understands is the sign was a message from Ralph. Ralph is an alien come to warn earth of an impending invasion by one of the most feared races in the Universe, the Kardashians, from the planet Kardash. Markus, a disgraced “rocket scientist” formerly with NASA is asked by the White House to investigate the mysterious advertisement and report back whether Coke was indeed the miscreant. Confusion reigns, though, when a giant Chicken Soup Can, containing the alien Ralph, lands outside the White House. So begins the adventures of Ralph.
What I particularly liked about The Book of Ralph was the subtle, yet clever humour that Steinsvold used to introduce the reader to much deeper and interesting thoughts. Although, I would have to say that Ralph’s explanations as to the “purpose of being” and the Universe, in general, didn’t actually come as a surprise to me, it made them none the less interesting and thought provoking. The idea that we, as a species, could possibly be alone in this massive universe, is an arrogant and presumptuous notion. I also liked the idea that we were far too primitive and young in evolutionary terms to understand much of what Ralph and his like could tell us. I found Ralph to be totally appealing and, as a potential “alien”, one you would not mind making contact with. Chris Steinsvold has brought us a funny, thoughtful book with some real insight and I can definitely recommend this not only to readers with a SciFi or Philisophical bent, but also to those who just like a good yarn, well told.
Wonders Will Never Cease by Judi Moore:
Dr Fergus Girvan is your archetypal British university professor; learned, scholarly, loves the young girls and his many bottles of good plonk. In Wonders Will Never Cease by Judi Moore we meet Fergus, who is suffering a bit of a mid to late life crisis as he realizes his chances of finally gaining a “chair” at Ariel University, may be fading. The young women he surrounds himself with, have suddenly become less interesting and decidedly duller, although still wonderful for his ego and libido. His new found relationship with his high-school aged daughter is tested when he discovers that Andy has fallen in love with a middle-aged lothario who bears no small resemblance, in both morals and motivation, to Fergus himself. Suddenly Fergus finds himself having to ally with Mary, his daughter’s mother and a woman he tries to avoid like the plague, to try to save their beloved daughter from the letch’s grasp. Throw in a supporting cast of characters that could have come out of any British sitcom and you have the makings of a funny, quirky and typically British story. Fergus bumbles his way through the situations that present themselves, as he begins to realize what is actually important in his life and what he should be focusing on.
I’ve always been a big fan of good British humour, the darker the better and Judi Moore has brought us a story, in Wonders Will Never Cease that absolutely fits that mould. When I was reading the book, and especially the wonderful, bumbling, but earnest portrayal of Fergus, I couldn’t help but think of those many wonderful sitcoms produced by the British (Black Books comes to mind here), with their self-deprecating humour and the stuffy, class-ridden characters that inhabit them. I felt Moore perfectly portrayed the sometime senseless and rarefied, ivory-tower atmosphere that is academia, the world over, but more especially so in the British system. I particularly enjoyed the age-old debate of the importance of the classics and humanities, in the University system, as opposed to Science and Business, something that was such a hot topic in the Thatcher Britain that this book is set. Comedy and humour is hard to write and good comedy, when discovered should be cherished and held up for all to see. Moore clearly has her finger on the pulse of what is comedy and this book certainly encourages me, as a reader, to seek out more of this author’s work.
As The Pizza Burns by Nick Powers:
As the Pizza Burns by Nick Powers is a sharply, acerbic and satirical look at the lives of those low-paid and overworked fast food workers that most of us take for granted. Through the eyes of Tony, a shift supervisor at The Pizza Corp, we are reminded that service workers at fast food restaurants are not mindless robots, but that they have lives, problems and difficulties just like the rest of us. Faced with unreasonable and angry customers who expect everything right there and right now, the fast-food workers are required to be polite, understanding and conciliatory even when every fibre of their being is screaming out to punch the arrogant, demanding customer between the eyes. Tony, like all his co-workers understands that “nobody works for Pizza Corp out of choice”. For Tony, with a pregnant wife, who also is suffering from cancer, life is one long battle just to keep the demanding creditors, especially the medical bills at bay. He has no choice, he cannot afford to lose his job and he desperately needs to get promoted to a salaried position. To do so, Tony knows he has to tow the corporate line and play by the corporate rules, as ridiculous and as unyielding as they may seem at times.
As someone who has fortunately never found the need to work for a fast-food restaurant, As the Pizza Burns is a real eye-opener and a reminder to me to never take these hard-working, usually young people for granted. Nick Powers introduces us to a wide range of diverse characters who all add something to the mix that makes up the Pizza Corp team. The author’s style is simple, straightforward and very easy to read. I read this entire book in one sitting simply because it flowed so effortlessly. Tony is a character that is easy to identify with. He looks to the future, when things will work out for the good for him and his family, but realises for now, he must do everything within his power to ensure his success at Pizza Corp and guarantee the stability of his family, but at what cost. The author clearly drew on his own experiences in writing this fictionalised version of life in a fast-food restaurant and perhaps that was what made the narrative so real and so starkly sad and equally funny in places. An author has achieved something special when he or she is able to open the reader’s eyes to something different to that which we take for granted and Powers has done this in this funnily sad story. I take my hat off to him and highly recommend this read to all.
drum roll please!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
CHANGING THE WORLD – ONE READER AT A TIME