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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alien abduction, but with a heart
Mitch Benn. He's Proud Of The BBC, and he's a regular on The Now Show. And this is his first novel. It's about the abduction of a baby by an alien, but it's written from a fresh perspective: although the protagonist is human, we see things largely from an alien point of view. There's nothing scary about these aliens - they're diffident, slightly unsure of themselves, in...
Published 22 months ago by Peter

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky twist on 'The Ugly Duckling' for mid teens
I can't help wondering how hard it would have been for Mitch Benn to find a publisher for his first novel, "Terra", had he not already been an established radio and TV personality. This is not to suggest, of course, that the book is not indeed worthy of publication; I merely wonder how much any publisher would have been prepared to take a punt on it had the author not...
Published 21 months ago by Steve Benner


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alien abduction, but with a heart, 12 July 2013
By 
Peter (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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Mitch Benn. He's Proud Of The BBC, and he's a regular on The Now Show. And this is his first novel. It's about the abduction of a baby by an alien, but it's written from a fresh perspective: although the protagonist is human, we see things largely from an alien point of view. There's nothing scary about these aliens - they're diffident, slightly unsure of themselves, in fact they're just like you and me. Except they have grey skin and blue blood, and their language has no vowels, something which would make this book a little tricky to read out loud: "She would convert Fthfth's zmms into zdds, smashing frkts and forcing yk yks...".

I can't wait for the audiobook.

It's actually quite a gentle book, certainly warm-hearted, despite the quite fast-moving action sequences later on in the book. I was expecting a satire, but it's better than that. Being set in in space, the novel is able to draw parallels between the alien Mlml society and our own without being too obvious, but it's basically an exciting story with interesting characters. Vstj, for example, fills a Professor Snape shaped hole in this novel, and the pathos of his character is sketched out with just enough detail for us to understand his motivation and grow to like him.

It's a surprise for me just how good a storyteller Mitch Benn is. This first novel is intelligent and thought-provoking, but mainly it's just a really exciting adventure. Like the best stories, it's suitable for reading by anyone from age ten and above, and possibly for reading to younger children, if you feel up to the challenge of pronouncing "gshkth".

I did one of those awful things where you stay up until 2am to finish the book. Even so, I was quite sad to get to the end; I hope this won't be his last novel.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Debut Novel, 3 July 2013
By 
A. Marczak "mazzarak" (Mordor) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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As other reviews have said, there is a bold quote on the front from Neil Gaiman, evoking comparisons with Pratchett, Adams and Dahl. While I don't think for a minute that Mitch Benn would consider that he has reached those heights with his debut novel, there's every suggestion that he could get close with future releases.

Suitable for children from 11 years upwards, but not by any means a "kids book", it's a story of an alien life form causing part chaos, part enlightenment, to another land. Except this time, the alien is the human, and the world is not our own.

Inventing a new world is part and parcel of the sci-fi genre. Creating one almost devoid of vowels is a very brave move. I wondered whether I would get along with a main protagonist called Lbbp, but it only grated on me in passing moments. When the plot is skipping along, the nonsense vocabulary passes by, because the writing is so good.

All knowledge can be downloaded from the Interface, there are open source technology and viral videos, and as a reader, I wondered where this was heading. Are we going down the 1984 route, or are we going with something more Utopian, like News from Gardenia? Benn expresses the doubts and the trust placed in such technology, and builds the story around them, rather than making them the story itself. I can see where the Adams comparison lies, with wonderful "improbability drive" moments, and there were times I wish those ideas had been explored a little deeper (the FaZoon for example).

At the heart of this story is a young girl, trying to find her way through life without truly knowing her identity. It also alludes to a world where people have evolved to remove all chance and imagination, and how wonderful, yet stifling, that world can be. It's slow and reflective where it needs to be, but fast and tense during the set pieces. I wanted the climax to take a little longer, for the denouement to play out a little less simply, but then I have to remind myself that a younger reader may not feel the same way. It ends in a way that leaves room for more, without leaving a cliff hanger.

I suspect this will appeal more to girls of a certain age, rather than boys, but I think that's a good thing. I've really enjoyed reading Terra, despite not being a Pratchett fanboy or a Hitch-hikers fanatic. If this is the future of science fiction writing, then I'm happy. So long as the future of reading isn't burying your head in The Interface.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky twist on 'The Ugly Duckling' for mid teens, 15 Aug. 2013
By 
Steve Benner "Stonegnome" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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I can't help wondering how hard it would have been for Mitch Benn to find a publisher for his first novel, "Terra", had he not already been an established radio and TV personality. This is not to suggest, of course, that the book is not indeed worthy of publication; I merely wonder how much any publisher would have been prepared to take a punt on it had the author not been a "name".

The book is a quirky children's story for adults (or possibly vice versa) which works in much the same way as a bumblebee flies -- by sheer blind ignorance of the fact that it really didn't ought to be capable of it. Mitch Benn has never been one for following rules or working within established norms, so it is perhaps not surprising that he doesn't show any sign of being constrained by any here. That said, the book follows a well-trodden morality tale pathway, tackling the issues of what it is to be a misfit and how love and trust can overcome prejudice and conditioning; in some regards it can be regarding as a modernised version of the story of the Ugly Duckling. Mitch Benn writes with an assurance and confidence which doesn't always feel well-placed but which nevertheless carries the sillier aspects of the story purely on the strength of its chutzpah.

I suspect most kids of the whackier kind will love it; many adults should also find much to laugh at within it. Fortunately, the story is probably of greatest appeal to mid-teens, well past the age of wanting to have things read to them, because heaven help any parent unfortunate enough to have to read it out loud!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terra, 14 July 2013
By 
L. M. Cowan (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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In 'Terra' alien scientist Lbbp is on a research trip to Rrth (Earth)when he inadvertently causes a terrible car crash. In the wreckage he finds an abandoned baby girl and decides to rescue her, taking her back to his home planet of Fnrr. The people of Fnrr are not too sure about having a human baby grow up on their planet, humans after all are dangerous and destructive creatures, but the child is allowed to stay and the story picks up as the little girl, Terra, starts her first day at the Lyceum (secondary school).

Benn has created a fantastic world in 'Terra' peopled with engaging characters, cool gadgets and fascinating creatures! The story also has a good pace with short chapters, plenty of humour and a dash of adventure, making it a fun and exciting read. Terra makes a worthy protagonist and is supported by a colourful, well developed supporting cast. I also loved the descriptions of and interactions between the alien races and the often humorous conceptions they have of each other.

Although I enjoyed reading 'Terra', I would say it is perhaps more aimed at a younger audience as a great introduction to sci-fi.

Overall, a light-hearted, smart and funny read. Recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Find., 20 July 2014
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Paperback)
I know the name of the author but to be honest I’m not that familiar with his humour so to be honest his celeb status really wasn’t anything to me. I read this book knowing nothing of him and to be honest what I read was a book that brought some warm humour, played with the expected Sci-Fi tropes and then wrapped it all up with a fun new look at a strange world through the eyes of the human.

It’s definitely fun, it has something for readers of all ages (young as well as old) and also is something that I found to be warm, engrossing as well as entertaining. All round a book that I was pleased to read and I’ll definitely look forward to other instalments. A great find.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Terra, 12 Aug. 2014
By 
Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Paperback)
I wasn't sure about Terra at first, mainly because of the unusual cover (that I now like) and difficult names that greeted me on the back cover. I don't do well with some fantasy/sci-fi names - I can't pronounce them right - but I eventually got used to those in Terra and actually ended up really enjoying it. It just goes to show that it's good to try different books and read outside your comfort zone!

Terra is a great satirical story that features truly brilliant characters and lots of British wit. It's about a little girl called Terra who is taken from Earth (Rrth) by an alien named Lbbp, raised on an orange-green planet called Fnrr and then finds herself at the centre of an intergalactic war. It's subtle in it's messages, mainly ones about Earth and its humans (Ymns) destroying themselves and everything they have, and it has a certain retro feel to it, like reading sci-fi fiction from decades ago. It's really an enjoyable reading experience from start to finish.

I did struggle with the strange names at first, I won't lie. Fnrr, Rrth, Lbbp, Ymns, Pshkf, Pktk... none of them are easy to say and none just roll off the tongue. By around page fifty I was pretty much used to them and had settled into my own pronunciations (whether they're right or wrong, I don't know) and eventually I could just read the words without having to stop and spell them out. I've never been good with languages and how to say stuff, so I knew this would be a bit of an obstacle for me. Thankfully, not one that was too bad!

My favourite part of Terra is the relationship between Terra and Lbbp. Obviously they're not related and have no ties to each other before Lbbp finds Terra on one of his trips to Earth, but yet they have a fantastic bond that is just like any other between a father and his daughter. They trust one another, talk about anything and, more importantly, respect each other and their differences. Although Terra left her real human parents behind, she doesn't ever want for anything because she has Lbbp, the best stepfather in all the galaxies.

Mitch Benn writes with a brilliant style, laced with deadpan humour and clever references that made me laugh on more than one occasion. Terra is definitely a book I'd categorise as 'unusual', though unusual in a good way, thanks to its somewhat unexpected tone and delivery. I'm looking forward to delving into the sequel, Terra's World, as things sound very different for Terra after the events of the first book. I hope all is well between and Fnrr and Rrth!
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4.0 out of 5 stars What it means to be Ymn, 9 Sept. 2013
By 
Doha (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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Terra is about a human girl growing up in an alien world -- that is, *she's* the alien: the only Ymn on Fnrr. An unintentional acquisition by scientisst Lbbp on an expedition to Rrrth, Terra grows up Fnrrn. She knows she's different, but she doesn't feel like she doesn't belong. The book follows her as she starts a new school and makes new friends, and the difficulties she experiences when her differences start to stand out. It's kind of two nicely enmeshed stories - the first part has that playful and carefree tone of school stories, before it evolves into a darker one, with the threat and eventual onslaught of war, and its conseqiences.

I hadn't heard of Mitch Benn before this, but I loved that this book was written for his daughter. The editor's preface is a letter to the reader, telling about the author's experiences of becoming a father playing a defining part in creating the heart of this book - and that's exactly what Terra is. It's a book bursting with heart, but not at the expense of an interesting, moving and suspenseful story. It's fun to take a wry look at human society through the filter of alien eyes, and especially fun to witness the cultural revolution on Fnrr as they discover certain Ymn characteristics and mores that make them reevaluate them as a whole. Most touching is the relationship between Lbbp, alien foster-father, and Terra. Also, I adored Pktk, Terra's friend. He was hilarious and awesome and vastly underrated by his fellows, ha!

This is a self-contained novel, suitable for younger and older readers. My only complaint is the ending was just a little too pat, but that's not really a complaint worth holding against it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, 18 Aug. 2013
By 
Chantal Lyons "C.S. Lyons" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
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'Terra' starts out mediocre; the humour is unsuccessful and the simplistic style of the prose put me in the mind of reading a story to a child, which made me start to read it in my head with a reading-to-a-child voice. But once it got going, it was really entertaining. Generally I didn't yearn to return to it, but reading it was a pleasure on the several commuter journeys it lasted for.

I'm not surprised Douglas Adams is mentioned in relation to 'Terra'. There are various elements of Fnnr (the alien planet on which Terra is raised) that bring Adams' stuff to mind, like a language devoid of vowels (though wisely not over-employed), zany inventions and bizarre creatures. Mitch Benn's book isn't rip-roaringly funny, but I did snigger occasionally, and laugh out loud once or twice, so it certainly deserves its place in the genre of humour. I've found in the past that books written by comedians sometimes feel forced in their comedy, but 'Terra' doesn't suffer from this (apart from the very beginning).

The book does seem to have been written slightly haphazardly, the sort of thing someone (like a comedian) could knock out over a few weeks. Mostly this is fine; the reader isn't expected to believe that 'Terra' could really happen. My only one real bugbear was that some of the clichés are still a bit too...well, cliché, in spite of the book's self-awareness. There's also a concept in it that isn't as original as some people may think; I recall the idea of aliens being unable to distinguish between reality and works of fiction from one of the Animorph books written by Katherine Applegate some years ago.

Apart from the fun I had reading 'Terra', I have to commend it for its wholly satisfying ending, both in emotional terms and in terms of plot-resolving. It is a stand-alone story, but thankfully for those who enjoyed it - like me - there is the promise of a sequel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's Life, but not as we know it., 25 July 2013
This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
As a confirmed Mitch Benn fan, I was looking forward to the publication of this. And I wasn't disappointed.

It is a clever and witty spin through our life on earth as seen from the perspective of Terra, an earth girl on a different planet. There is a dry humour running underneath much of it, some very clever literary and science fiction jokes and you can tell he obviously loves the character he's created in her.

Wherever its target market, its suitable for all ages and I would happily let children read it on their own, exciting enough to get them turning the pages but nothing that any parent would be concerned about. In a class setting it would be ideal as a junior book club read, offering the opportunity to discuss lots of different subject. For adults its a pleasurable, easy read that you could return to again and again.

As a self confessed geek and scifi buff, I have a lot of science fiction on my shelves and this stands out as a first novel, both for its readability and its sheer quality of writing.

The description of the book at the top of the Amazon page is a little misleading, in as much as the story is primarily about Terra's experiences on Fnnr, with the war only featuring as a call to arms and an excellent plot motivator, allowing secondary characters time and space to develop. Where the Fnnr language has been used, it is initially clumsy to read out loud, being only consonants but the brain soon adapts and they slip past easily. As it states at the beginning of the book, the use of italics throughout the text allows the reader to know when the characters are speaking Fnnr (or Mlml) dialect.

Buy it, read it, listen to the audio book in the car (brilliant for long journeys and read by Mitch, the guy is professional!)

I look forward to the sequel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars From Fnrr with love., 21 July 2013
By 
D. Saunders "Professional cynic, but my heart... (Sunny southern England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra (Terra 1) (Hardcover)
Lbbp is a Fnrr'n scientist. He's fascinated by what he knows as Rrth, but despises the humans that inhabit it. Like a true scientist, however, he's about to bring home a specimen.

That specimen is the baby that he names Terra, and this is the story of her childhood.

Mitch Benn; talented comedian, masterful songwriter, bloody nice bloke, and now gifted author. It's just not fair. I have none of these talents, let alone a mastery of all of them.

On the one hand, Terra is a kids book; my 9 year old son has read it, and loved it . On the other hand, it's hugely enjoyable by all; I read it in the space of a few hours, and am chomping at the bit for part two (out next year). Terra isn't a perfect book by any means - Benn romps through the story at a fair rate of knots when the action picks up towards the end, and there's more than a little bit of deus ex machina at times - but it *is* fundamentally a kids book. Kids couldn't give a shit if things are resolved in a sudden way, as long as they're resolved in a satisfying way.

And that's the key to Terra; it's satisfying.

We find ourselves in a world where authors are only too keen to kill off major characters (Martin and Rowling, I'm glaring at you), which perhaps makes for an emotional reaction, but doesn't give the reader a sense of justice. Mitch follows a pleasing, familiar, unchallenging route. This sounds a little like a criticism, but it's really not. Sometimes you want a story that pans out how you're expecting it to. That's not to say there aren't peril and hiccups along the way though. Not everything is hunky dory on Fnrr.

As a kids book, Terra is a roaring success. It teaches kids that it's ok to feel different, that however you may be on the outside, inside we're all the same. To an adult, that may feel like a preachy lesson, because we take it for granted. Kids aren't blessed with that knowledge, so have to learn it from somewhere. Crucially, despite being different from her classmates, Terra is popular. You have no idea how important this sense of self-esteem is to kids. Mitch doesn't treat kids as stupid either. He's got two young daughters, he knows how bloody sharp they are, so he's written this accordingly. Fnrr has a clock based on colour shades, he doesn't take the time to explain how it works, he lets the reader figure it out, adding to that feeling of satisfaction.

Above all, the feeling I got from Terra is that Mitch Benn loves people. Yes, we're flawed in so many ways, and yes, we're more than a little bit stupid, but deep down we're good people. We'll get there in the end.

Terra is a worthwhile addition to your collection, whether you have kids or not. Pick up a copy and escape to Fnrr, you won't regret it.
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Terra by Mitch Benn
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