Terra by Mitch Benn

8/10 A fantasy story that also serves as social commentary.

No-one trusts humanity. No-one can quite understand why we're intent on destroying the only place we have to live in the Universe. No-one thinks we're worth a second thought. And certainly no-one is about to let us get off Rrth. That would be a complete disaster.

But one alien thinks Rrth is worth looking at. Not humanity, obviously, we're appalling, but until we manage to kill every other living thing on the planet there are some truly wonderful places on Rrth and some wonderful creatures living in them. Best take a look while they're still there.

But on one trip to Rrth our alien biologist causes a horrendous accident. The occupants of a car travelling down a lonely road spot his ship (the sort of massive lemon coloured, lemon shaped starship that really shouldn't be hanging in the sky over a road). Understandably the Bradbury's crash (interrupting the latest in a constant procession of bitter rows). And in the wreckage of their car our alien discovers a baby girl. She needs rescuing. From the car. From Rrth. From her humanity.

And now eleven years later a girl called Terra is about to go to school for the first time. It's a very alien experience...

I was not sure what to make of this when I first picked it up. Neil Gaiman compared it to Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, three authors that have entertained me from childhood to adulthood. “Must be good” I thought.

Well, when I finally put Terra down, I had to agree with Gaiman. This is a humorous, imaginative and endearing tale of humanity and tolerance.

It’s an easy read and that is thanks to great dialogue, interesting personalities (alien and human) and an excellently conceived world.

With its themes of science, ecology, diplomacy and universal understanding, this will have huge crossover appeal. A fantasy story that also serves as social commentary (without being preachy) deserves plaudits.

I really enjoyed Terra and I am sure readers of all ages will also like its quirky humour and insights too.

Terra by Mitch Benn
Published 2013 by Gollancz

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