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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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If you're familiar with Mitch Benn's work as a comedian and musician you'll probably know that he's a science-fiction fan, and this book falls into the comic sci-fi genre. It's is the story of a baby girl, Terra, who is taken from Earth to the distant planet Fnnr and brought up by Lbbp, her alien foster-father. Except, of course, on Fnrr it's Terra who's the alien, and while she has no recollection of living anywhere else, she's always acutely aware of being different. As the only human on Fnrr, she's physically unlike her friends - she has ears, hair and vocal chords capable of producing vowel sounds, for a start - but are there other, less obvious differences in the way she thinks and feels? And are her fellow humans back on Earth really so destructive and primitive in comparison to the gentle, technologically advanced Fnrrns?

Inevitably, people have compared Terra to the work of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, but while I agree it has echoes of both, Benn has found his own voice as a novelist. There's a satirical thread running through the book, but it has a gentle warmth to it too. Benn's prose style has a simple clarity to it, even when the ideas and themes being discussed are large and complex, and the book overall has a charming, fable-like quality to it that I enjoyed. Terra is funny and entertaining, but there are many serious and often touching moments too and the main characters are well-drawn - the supporting characters are perhaps less three-dimensional, but this works well for the purposes of the story and its style and helps us to focus on the main players.

From what I can gather, Terra was marketed as a book for adults, but its style, themes and child protagonist would make it equally suitable for kids of, say, ten and upwards.
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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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on 17 September 2013
I really wanted to like this book a lot.
And it was okay.
But although I was so encouraged by Neil Gaiman's endorsement it fell far short of what I was expecting.
It's rather pleasant but the writing isn't very good. It seemed to me like the Douglas Adams that Gaiman detected was a poor copy rather than part of the author's authentic style and I couldn't understand why the editors hadn't taken care of the many jarring instances of the use of the word 'sat' where it should be 'sitting', that's not style, it's just bad writing.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A science fiction novel. It runs for three hundred and twenty four pages, and is divided into four parts. The last of which is quite short. These are further divided into very short chapters.

It is a book that is pretty much complete and self contained and does seemingly bring the story to a close at the end. But also leaves room for more to come.

It's the story of a young human girl, and a male alien. The latter is called Lbbp. His race of humanoid aliens are very dedicated scientists. When he's surveying life on Earth [or Rrth, as his people call it] he accidentally causes a young baby girl to be left abandoned by her parents.

Against all the rules of his people, he takes her back to his world and raises her. He names her Terra.

A few years, or orbits as his people would have it, later, she starts school. She finds she has a lot to learn.

And the same goes for everyone else on the planet...

One cover quote likens this to Terry Pratchett, Roald Dahl, and Douglas Adams, but calls the writing wholly unique at the same time. I would also add the name Robert Sheckley to that list. But to say it's unique is quite correct. Because whilst it may remind you at times of the style of those other writers, it never seeks to copy or pay homage to them [thankfully, as I have read some pretty poor attempts to copy Douglas Adams style] and does come up with something that feels very original in it's own right.

All the alien characters do have names in a similar fashion to Lbbp. They have names for other planets and species that are written in a similar style. But you do get used to this quite quickly. The prose is very readable throughout, and no less so in alien dominated sections.

This is a novel of character first and foremost. It could feel as if it treads the old 'just be yourself' path, but never develops in familiar ways. It is all about accepting differences and learning new things because of those. It demonstrates how beings can do this, in a very appealing manner.

It does become more plot based in the final quarter as a threat has to be dealt with. By this point you will have to come to care for the characters, as all the aliens may have odd names but they do show different characteristics. And you will want to know how things turn out for them.

The heart of the whole thing though is a touching relationship between an alien and his human stepdaughter that is very nicely written and characterised indeed. Which makes for an excellent read.

As mentioned the end wouldn't entirely seem to be the finale for these characters and setting. Should there be more to come, then I look forward to it. Because if they are books as good as this, they will be worth it.
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on 2 August 2013
If you are a Sci Fi/Fantasy fan or a Mitch Benn fan why haven't you read this already? Just as in his musical ditties he nods at a number of Sci Fi's tropes and Masters while never becoming generic. It works on a number of levels, entranced this adult and I await Mitch's second book. I would happily put this alongside Helen Dunmore's Ingo series as "Great Titles to Introduce the Young to Fantasy (& hook them for life)" Cribbins, Jackanory, NOW!
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on 24 July 2013
What a simple innocent joyous thankful interesting playful pleasurable exciting book. Satire and observation has never been written with as tender a heart or as clarity of story
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