'A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy' is a hilariously wild and cosmic sci-fi adventure that ultimately explores what it means to be human. David Solomons is clearly having a lot of fun with a story for fans of Doctor Who, Star Wars and the human race. Planet Earth is rarely insignificant...
Gavin's got a new neighbour and she's really annoying. Niki follows him everywhere, bosses him about, and doesn't care that her parents will obliterate Earth with their galactic warships if she doesn't stop running away from them.
Can Niki and Gavin sort out the alien despots (aka Mum and Dad) and save the planet? Possibly. Will they become friends along the way? Doubtful...
I really enjoyed this satirical study of life on Planet Earth; Solomons has crafted a story that is full of witty insights, unpredictable madcap set pieces and complicated relationships that reveal the best (and worst) in all of us creatures of the universe. There are despotic parent-rulers of the galaxy, glutinous alien-chefs, a stubborn bounty-hunter cat and an array of spacecrafts and devices (like a memory-wiping toothbrush). But what Solomons does so well is to focus the tractor-beam on us humans: our propensity for bravery in spite of our ordinariness, our unconditional love for others and our intelligence despite ridiculous over-thinking. Solomons does this without being overly-sentimental and allowing for a lot of laughs. If you enjoyed Louie Stowell's 'Loki' or Christopher Edge's 'Space Oddity' you will find the same brilliantly chaotic and funny observations of humanity (as seen from non-earth based beings) in this.
I thought Gavin was a great protagonist. He's a hero because he's not a hero - his awkward, sensitive, wholly ordinary existence is precisely why he's so special. Underneath, there is a boy yearning for love and attention, especially being fostered. This is a story as much about parents as it is about aliens - in fact, parents can very much feel like aliens sometimes! The complexities of parent separation and parent conflict are given light and perspective through the barmy, quirky scf-fi analogy of alien-rulers. It's like a child's version of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' but with added heart on the often difficult relationships we have with each other.
A very funny, forensic exploration of human relationships in an unpredictable universe, 'A Beginner's Guide to Ruling the Galaxy' will rule this summer's reading.
Thank you to Nosy Crow for my copy to review.