Sashay to the Centre of the Earth
by Chris McCrudden
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Pub Date 17 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 10 Mar 2022
The only thing harder to win than a war is the peace that follows it…
A year on from the human-machine war, both sides are struggling to share custody of the solar system.
Prime Minister Fuji Itsu should be fighting Carin Parkeon, the parking meter determined to become the planet’s new manager. But no one has seen Fuji since she fell through the Earth’s crumbling concrete crust
Janice, the First Minister Janice of the Battlestar Suburbia has learned two truths. Humankind is only two meals from anarchy, and you should think twice before giving planning approval to a new supermarket.
Somewhere in between, breadmaker turned secret agent Pamasonic Teffal is trying to bring the sides together without curdling them.
In this hilarious successor to Battlestar Suburbia and Battle Beyond the Dolestars, humans and robots alike will learn the solutions to their problems lie not in the stars but in the ground beneath their castors. It’s time to Sashay to the Centre of the Earth.
“Chris McCrudden has created a new division of SF: Science Flotsam. His sprawling space epic is what you get if you cross Dr Who with an unhealthy fascination for household appliances. Forget alien invasion; in this explosive future you won’t be able to trust your spin dryer.” CHRISTOPHER FOWLER
“McCrudden’s debut is festooned with cunning punnery, sharp turns of phrase, and jokes about emojis and the internet, making this very much a comic novel of our times.” JAMES LOVEGROVE, FINANCIAL TIMES
“An amusing and mind-bending read… different, a little geeky, and lots of fun.” LOVEREADING
“An extraordinary technical achievement that does for SF what Terry Pratchett did for fantasy.” DAVID QUANTICK
Average rating from 17 members
Okay okay...not what I was expecting but I loved it regardless!
I started this book having never read the precious instalments in the series...but that mattered not because the story sucked me in and refused to spit me out! The writing was excellent and very satirical. There was so much humorous bits that just hit you bam out of no where. The situation could be rather serious but the author just hit you with some humour to ease it up. I loved that! I really really loved that because it turned what could have been a super heavy read into something light and fun.
The plot of this book was something I have never encountered before. It was unique in nature in that we have robots as a ruling class and humans as the plebs. We get a view into both worlds, from the top to the bottom. I dare say it was super interesting to view how robots deal with politics...much more human than I expected.
All in all...a fantastic and unique read. I definitely think one can pick up anywhere in the series and read but I strongly advise against it because you might be like me and miss out on some fun!
The third and absurd addition to the Battlestar Suburbia series comes to us half a year after the end of the human/robot wars - and now the hard part has truly begun.
The humans and machines have to find a way to live in at least civility if not peace, and figure out exactly how they're going to share the solar system they've called home for centuries. Janice, still spearheading Battlestar Suburbia from orbit is now the first minister and trying to look after the millions of citizens she swore to protect, even if that means getting a bit dirty. But down on the ground, the prime minister is having a hard time trying to focus on peace and negotiation when the Earth itself seems to be falling apart beneath her feet.
If they don't have the Earth, humans and robots alike could lose everything - so working together to quite literally get to the centre of the problem might be the thing that finally fixes it once and for all.
Sashay to the Centre of the Earth is exactly what I'd hoped it would it be - a blisteringly sharp and witty satire about modernity and politics with plenty of absurd chaos and cheesy humour that you laugh at whether you want to or not.
In theory, this book should not be good. If you were to describe it to me, I'd tell you it's so outlandish and ridiculous that it couldn't possibly be pulled off, but McCruddens trademark action and worldbuilding will have you suspicious that your hairdryer might be trying to kill you after just a few pages.
This has been described as 'Star Wars but with the cast of the Golden Girls' and I can't agree more - it's full of the type of humour your dad loves, but in a world where toasters are quite possibly smarter than you.
Chris McCrudden is slowly carving out his own niche in sci-fi with his space-comedy Battlestar Suburbia series, and the third entry Sashay to the Centre of the Earth brings the action down to Earth; way, way down into the Earth.
In McCrudden’s universe the “war with the machines” was less Terminator-style and more about humans being outsmarted by smart-phones and office equipment. We’re not dealing with killer androids and emotionless cyber-creatures, we’re talking about smart-speakers with too many opinions and flustered photocopiers.
With the war over, and humanity and the robots making peace - the robot Prime Minister of the Machine Republic, Fuji Itsu, is drowning in political infighting, and literally drowning when she falls through the crumbling concrete of the discarded planet and down into the ocean’s depths (printers were never designed to swim). Meanwhile, on the Battlestar Suburbia, acting First Minister Janice is trying to keep humanity alive with the help of a cabal of beauticians-turned-black marketeers. And that’s when the sentient breadmaker (now in the body of a drone), Pamasonic Teffal, arrives on Suburbia with a secret mission…
To say this universe is camp is an understatement, Sashay to the Centre of the Earth takes endless tropes and cliches and twists them around in the best traditions of a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchet. The closest comparison I could make would be the long-running British sit-com Red Dwarf with a few more consumer goods thrown in.
Your enjoyment is really dependent on your immersion in British pop-culture as much of what is being played with here is a kitschy, camp version of modern Britain like it’s an interplanetary Carry On… film. Brand names are accosted and enhanced at every turn in the manner of classic drag names, lolling the reader into a non-stop sense of amusement. The book is like being patted on the head by a drag-queen at story-time.
While the names and visuals make for an endless LOL-fest, it would all fall apart if the story and stakes weren’t there. McCrudden knows his sci-fi and adventure stories well and stripped of the punnery, the story here is a fun adventure. Secret missions, alien civilisations (of a sort) and two worlds in a Cold War, set against a backdrop of ecological decline and a fight for survival. While the tone is light, the story has enough weight to make you care and keep on reading.
Sashay to the Centre of the Earth is an easy jump-on point for those unfamiliar with the Battlestar Suburbia series, and a nice bit of light relief from the endless post-apocalyptic stories we get (for a different form of ‘light relief’, follow McCrudden on social media - he’s not above a thotty bit of book-promotion). If you need a bright, silly read to distract you from the dumpster fire of reality it’s well worth checking out.
McCrudden delivers another enjoyable episode in the Battlestar Suburbia and Machine Republic's attempts to co-exist. I was disappointed to find that two characters I enjoy don't make it into this story, so I'm hoping the next book covers what they were up to while Janice was hunting down soil and Rita was saving the Suburbia from a treacherous smart-speaker.
As with the first two books, I sometimes struggled to picture the scale and anthropomorphization of the machine characters. The characters themselves, though, are fully realized and relatable enough that it didn't lessen my enjoyment too much. All in all, this continues to be a fun series with enough heart to keep me coming back for more.
Thanks to Farrago Books and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC!
This is a rollicking story about the time 10,000 years after the machines take over. Humans are rebelling against their robot overlords and the machines are trying to work out some kind of new existence alongside the humans...or are they?
These are not humanoid Terminator-style robots, though. The Prime Minister is a printer and the main machine protagonists are a smartphone and a bread machine. The humans are hairdressers and
Obviously, this is not realistic fiction. However, I found suspension of disbelief difficult at many points. 10,000 years with so little cultural change? The remains of plastic bags still traveling the ocean floor after multiple milennia?
But this is a fun read, however you interpret it. The story switches back and forth from the machine to the human viewpoint, and along the way there are funny insights into the internet and other technologies.
Upon reading the title of Chris Crudden’s latest sci fi book, one might expect a story about drag queens in a Jules Verne-style adventure. It’s comedy of the campy variety for sure, but in lieu of drag queens, Crudden envisions a future inhabited by sassy sentient machines and beleaguered humans, both trying to head off a war for control of the universe. Something like Terminator meets the BBC’s Are You Being Served? if it was written by Douglas Adams. Sorry. That’s the best I can do.
I may do even worse trying to summarize the plot, and none of this is a bad thing by the way. At least for those of us who enjoy well-played adolescent humor. It’s Year 10,000 and something. Machines, from toasters to nanobots, have evolved into artificially intelligent beings, and the universe teeters on a tenuous peace accord that liberated humans from indentured servitude. Earth has been ‘remodeled’ for android habitation. Oceans have been paved over with concrete since metal doesn’t mix well with saltwater. A human cast of characters lives on the Battlestar Suburbia, which is something of a wasteland of its own. Algae is the only food source, and try as they might to process it into familiar things like hot dogs and champagne, it still tastes like algae.
Prime Minister Fuji Itsu, a printer, is determined to maintain the detente she brokered, but there’s mutiny brewing among machine-kind. Her greedy political rival Carin Parkeon, a parking meter, would like to exploit the machines’ distrust of humans and catapult Fuji from power. Meanwhile, on the Battlestar Suburbia, the grand opening of a mega supermarket, appropriately named ALGI, turns out to be a Trojan horse with potentially genocidal consequences for humans. Their leader Janice, a former low-budget hairstylist, and her partner Rita must figure out agriculture in outer space, and more immediately, how to defuse a hostile, laser-powered grocery store.
Additional rotating characters include a secret agent automaton, Pamasonic, who would prefer her former life as a simple breadmaker with dreams of settling down with a special somebody and wiring together some little ones. Her partner in crime, Hugh, is an excitable smartphone, still stinging from an affair gone wrong with Carin’s henchman Alexy, a home speaker. Then there’s the gals and guys of Battlestar Suburbia’s Kurl Up and Dye salon. They’ve been smuggling in soil to grow fruits and vegetables and become enlisted in Janice’s mission to create a palatable, organic food source for her people and end dependence on the machines.
The “science” of Crudden’s sci fi epic is hard to follow, but one grows to appreciate that’s besides the point. Sentient machines have consciousness that they can transfer to
multiple inert hosts, and they’re as fallible and paradoxical as humans. Beyond their tendency to fall back on keystroke emojis, one has a hard time telling machine characters from human ones. The machines certainly display a full range of emotions and sensibilities, from smugness, cowardice, irony, to ethical obligation.
Crudden’s humorously absurd world helps with letting go of how any of this is possible, and he makes clever reference to modern problems like social media obsession and climate crisis. His rotating ensemble of misfits encounter mischievous LOLCats, somehow gone from meme to real world entities. They discover non-biodegradable plastic rendered sentient from the toxic, primordial goop that is now Earth’s polluted oceans. Despite the ridiculousness of walking, talking electric mixers and petulant cellular phones, one never feels too far aloft from the world we know.
Crudden has also crafted a story that is unmistakably queer without depicting queerness directly, for the most part. Janice and Rita’s relationship is acknowledged, but they’re in separate places in the universe throughout the book. Hugh and Alexy have a hammed-up moment of reconciliation, but at the risk of giving away too much, their USB ports never connect. What makes the story queer is the characterization and sensibility. In the midst of a struggle to save the universe, every character, from hard luck human to discarded twentieth century ballpoint pen just wants to be seen. Happily, they each get their moment to shine, however absurdly.
A fun read for fans of sci fi/fantasy humor in the vein of Terry Gilliam, and more recently Rob Rosen and Ryan LaSala.
Reviewed for Out in Print
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