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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good time filler ;)
At 107 pages this might not be quite a short story, but it is a quick read. Started and finished within about two hours. It was refreshing to read as so many people (especially in sci-fi) are into the loooong, dense books and trilogies (well thinks of the movie/TV series). As opposed to Lord of the Rings this is more like an episode of Black Mirror.

We are...
Published 22 months ago by Mad Saint Uden

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Great
I like the novella as a writing format. It is something of a double edged sword for the author. Firstly it just requires an interesting theme without the commitment or detailed plotting of a full length novel. On the other hand, however, it is a challenge to put together a coherent story with a satisfactory conclusion in a relatively short tale. I would say that The...
Published 19 months ago by Brett H


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Great, 25 Jun. 2013
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
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I like the novella as a writing format. It is something of a double edged sword for the author. Firstly it just requires an interesting theme without the commitment or detailed plotting of a full length novel. On the other hand, however, it is a challenge to put together a coherent story with a satisfactory conclusion in a relatively short tale. I would say that The Prankster succeeded to a degree.

The scene is set with a reality show on a far off planet where a top rated show features Trager, or The Prankster, manipulating earthlings in various situations for the amusement of the populace. The synopsis refers to intriguing situations such as the prankster's involvement in such earth moving events as the pyramids and the art of Picasso. However, given the brevity of this story, these merit just a mention in the text. I would say that the early part of the book came across as rather disjointed until the point where Trager is marooned on earth, and from there on the story is both interesting and coherent.

The climax of this tale certainly has its twists and turns, some of which are quite unexpected. However, I felt that the great revelation at the end was really just a bit too clever and rather too glib for me. Maybe this is one novella that would, perhaps, have merited a longer book so that some of the more interesting aspects could have been explored in rather more detail. This is quite a reasonable story, which, perhaps, did not reach its potential.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Are You having a Laugh?, 7 Jun. 2013
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Oh novella, you tiny, tiny book. `The Prankster' is one such novella, but should really be part of a larger collection of short stories, as a novella implies a novel like structure over fewer pages. Unfortunately, `Prankster' is a book that starts off at full throttle and seemingly never choses to explain to you what is exactly going on. Pom Trager is an alien who likes a practical joke, especially when it is on a lower species like humans. He is the presenter of a comedy show that manipulates human history. This is all well and good until one trip to Earth goes wrong and Trager finds himself on a race against time to get home.

What is `The Prankster'? Is it a critical look at the media's addiction to fly on the wall documentaries or a flight of science fiction fancy? I'm not sure that I know and that author James Polster does either. His earlier novel `The Graduate Student' also suffered from this issue. `Prankster' is too underdeveloped to call itself anything other than a short story, we do not get to know the characters well or really what is going on. It is a slice of another life with a twist at the end; perfect for a short story.

Despite confusing me throughout, I genuinely enjoyed `Prankster' for some of the ideas and the road movie style of it. It felt like a `Dr Who' novel, but the reason these Who novels work is that we already know the characters so we can get on with the adventure. `Prankster' just decides to leave this vital information out. At just over 100 pages, the book gets away with being a flight of fancy as you have finished before you can get too annoyed. A little more thought and structure would have lifted `The Prankster' above average curio status.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed the mark, 20 Aug. 2012
By 
Peter Miller (Sudbury, Suffolk United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I am not really sure if this story was meant to be humorous, an action story or what. The concept is good. An alien race manipulating we humans for their amusement on a reality TV show. The presenter gets stranded on earth and needs to get back home.

The humour was very hard to find and it was not very exciting. Characters did not appeal and I found that I didn't really care what happened to them

There were some good twists right at the end of the story and I felt the end was the best part of the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, 12 May 2013
By 
M. O. HAYNES "couch magpie" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This short story (I can't even bring myself to call it a novella) reads like a screenplay and at 109 pages is pretty much the right length for that format. It is too devoid of any precise detail or character development beyond the writer's third person 'in the moment' sketches and lists to be called a novella. For me it read like a poor mix of a Dr Who episode and fragments of a rejected Men in Black script. I recently read and enjoyed 'Slaughterhouse 5' and I think it is grossly misleading to compare James Polster to Kurt Vonnegut and I also think it is incorrect to suggest he is anywhere near as good a humourist as Douglas Adams. I found very little to laugh about in this story. The main character Trager at times does feel like a poor man's Ford Prefect, but is not fleshed out at all and I found that I couldn't sympathise with any of the characters. The story is at best a lightly entertaining read with one core idea, an absence of any great excitement, no clear message, and a fairly predictable 'twist' at the end. If Polster has made a concious decision to write the story like a lightweight screenplay (perhaps to make make the experience of reading it seem voyueristic) then I am afraid this conceit was lost on me and devalued the whole, thankfully brief, experience. For details of what the story is actually about please refer to other reviews or the hyperbolic description from the publisher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hmmm, 12 Nov. 2013
By 
the lambanana "the lambanana" (liverpool) - See all my reviews
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Parts were funny. And it was a little more than a re-hash of the Trueman show. It certainly had more to it.

I quite liked the premise, I quite liked the observation of the "celebrity culture"

It's short, well written and did intrigue me enough to look out for other publications by the author.

It was almost like a synopsis for a far fetched film. When I learned of the author's Movie producer background, it didn't surprise me.

It was OK. Just OK. Not bad, but not outstanding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining enough, but has been said and done before, 4 April 2013
By 
Rowena Hoseason "Hooligween" (Kernow, Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This is a crisply-written, enjoyable tale. Easily digested in an afternoon, with an accessible writing style (after the opening chapter which is a little bit chewy), and some smart observations on modern culture. Sassy dialogue, too.
However... if you've seen The Truman Show [DVD] then you've already absorbed most of the themes about the nature of reality TV entertainment which reappear in 'The Prankster'. The notion that aliens are responsible for the more ridiculous happenings in human history is cute - but the core satirical content has been done before.
Ditto the 'stranger in a strange land' theme, when a futuristic traveller comes to the here-and-now; initially dismisses humans as primitives with scorn and sneering, then is gradually wowed by our inherent, erm, niceness. And humanity. It's been done on Star Trek a coupla dozens times at least.
So the ending was no great surprise.
Overall, then, this was a spiffy little filler - a useful break between chunky novels and extended series. It makes a good taster of the author's talents, and after reading The Prankster I would certainly consider buying a full-length novel from this writer.

7/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good time filler ;), 27 Mar. 2013
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At 107 pages this might not be quite a short story, but it is a quick read. Started and finished within about two hours. It was refreshing to read as so many people (especially in sci-fi) are into the loooong, dense books and trilogies (well thinks of the movie/TV series). As opposed to Lord of the Rings this is more like an episode of Black Mirror.

We are in a time of the future and a place that is alien. We have a plot that presents interesting questions on evolution (if you saw the Matrix and asked if we really live in a computer world, this will make you think!). I enjoyed the characters who all seem realistic and able to relate to, and the premise is as plausible as this genre gets. The very ending did take me by surprise and took a turn from serious to 'Douglas Adams', which given the size of the book happened within two pages.

I am very happy to have read this and to recommend it...I also imagine it would make a good kindle read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars stop the world, I'm a celebrity, I want to get off, 4 Mar. 2013
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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......but what if it were all true, what if the Prankster has been duping us all along and like characters from "The Emperor's New Clothes" nobody can admit to it though it only takes one small boy to say "why has he no clothes on?"

We are overwhelmed with the insincerity of celebrity driven television and manipulated by every-twenty-minutes advertising space trying to persuade us into purchases and lifestyles we neither need nor should pursue. How welcome is an alien to take a look at this bizarre world we have evolved and take the p*ss out of us all.

Polster's one sitting read ( a must for every waiting room)gallops along and at times it is difficult to keep a hold on the carousel of incredulity, pastiche & down right silliness. This will keep the Channel 4 comedy crowd happy until a new and innovative panel game comes along!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lack lustre road trip through Americana, 9 Oct. 2012
By 
Prof TBun (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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It is often said that American's are not good at irony, and this short story is ammunition towards that assertion. The irony in The Prankster is far to contrived to be amusing.

The rest of the story attempts to mock the American world view of history. Most British readers are going to struggle with many of the important American cultural references. I advise you to wiki the Edsel when you get to it, because it is a recurring theme.

The basic plot is simple. Earth is being watched by an inter-galactic T.V. audience. The Prankster is a hit show, where Trager visits earth each episode to create some silly mischief. Something goes wrong and Trager is trapped on Earth. He then has a race against time to trek across country to reach his only exit point.

It isn't a bad idea. However there is no amusing dialogue and not enough character development at the start to care about them. It is a shame because as the story comes to a close, the characters do start to become more interesting. The ending leaves no room for a sequel.

Throughout this book I was dying for some witty remarks, which never materialised. There were several interesting plot ideas, which were not followed through. What did happen was less interesting, which makes me wonder if Polster was in a hurry to get something published.

Overall this book is a passable easy read for a long journey, but nothing more than that.

If this story inspires you to look for a full sized comic novel about the exploits of an insane reality T.V. host, then I highly recommend Carl Hiaasen's "Chomp".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There isn't enough there, 3 Sept. 2012
By 
Glasgow Dreamer (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This is a reasonably entertaining yet ultimately unfulfilling short story. To call it a "novella" would be to bestow upon it a grandeur which it does not deserve.

It begins reasonably promisingly with some basic, but amusing, character profiling and scene-setting. The author obviously hopes to be compared to Douglas Adams, as this part is so "Hitchhikers Guide"-like that it can only have been deliberate. Unfortunately, quality-wise, this author is not even on the same planet as Adams.

The scene is set; we are going to have a science fiction comedy centred on the concept of reality TV. Done well, this could have potential.

However, after that promising beginning, everything happens far too fast; there is little time for further character development; one or two things seem so out of place that you just know they are going to turn out to be important later; some things happen so suddenly that they don't really make sense and remain unexplained, and largely unremarked - I think this may be the author attempting to be "random" without fully understanding the concept.

Overall, the book took me a little over an hour to read, and my overall impression is that it didn't take the author much longer to write it. It comes over as merely an outline, plans for a story which still need to be fleshed out. Admittedly, the copy I read was an uncorrected proof copy, but unless the final released edition is at least three times as long, I couldn't recommend anyone to bother with this - there just isn't enough there to make it worthwhile.
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