20 July 2012
Synopsis: Dave, Daisy, Tim and Waldo are off on a business fact-finding mission to the planet of Kalista-mm, some 19 years from Earth. There, they tour the various nations, discuss business techniques, and run assorted adventures through comedic misunderstandings.
Whenever someone writes a book in a genre which has an established and well-loved classic, any new offerings are automatically going to draw comparisons. For example, a new fantasy epic about a mythic journey, featuring orcs and elves is going to get Lord of The Rings comparisons. That's just the way it is.
And so it is here. Enhance Your Exports! for its style is going to draw comparisons with The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, rightly or wrongly. It would seem that Peskett is a huge fan (but then again, who isn't?), and this has a massive impact on his writing style. Is this a good thing? Is it a bad thing?
Well, Enhance Your Exports! kicks off with what could be an excerpt from the esteemed Guide, detailing customs and the likes of Kalista-mm, before beginning the story in earnest. What follows is the exploits of Dave, Daisy, Tim and Waldo as they travel through Kallista-mm's nations, each with their own customs and ways. There are, as there must be, the usual mix of misunderstandings and misadventures - ranging from drunken exploits, falling in love with the locals, offending the locals, stumbling across international crimes, and being arrested.
Peskett uses the guise of a business trip to alien shores to mock our own earthly practises, occasionally with humourous and/or savage results. And the occasional wry smile is raised accordingly. Running gags and misconceptions are frequently used to varying degrees of success.
There are, as ever, both good and bad in the telling of this particular tale. On the down side, the characters are fairly bland and indistinguishable for the vast majority of the book (perhaps one too many); Peskett seems to rely a little too much on silly words and names; the teen "yoof" speak is painful; and the influence on the world of Kalista-mm of Ally McBeal just shouts "Futurama did this first!".
On the plus side, that the opening reads like an excerpt from the Hitchhikers Guide is as much a positive as a negative - HHGTTG is a much beloved piece of work, but it's someone else's voice. Strong points are the swipes at earthly business practises, which are nicely played. Dialogue is nicely played, and it fits the whole tone of the book. And, by the end, the characters are comfortable. The best thing by far, though, is Peskett's unbridled enthusiasm and creativity coupled with his mockery of our own business and worldly practises.
Peskett is obviously very creative and imaginitive, and has some strong ideas in here. Unfortunately, they seem to be lost in someone else's world. I may be harping on about HHGTTG a bit too much, but that was something that overshadowed the whole story for me, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out the obvious homage/influence.
Enhance Your Exports! is a fun read, and fairly likeable despite its flaws