|The NCF Guideto|
Edward Willett Andy Nebula, Intersellar Rock Star
Roussan Publishers Inc.: 1999. ISBN 1-896184-52-9 $6.95 Cdn. $5.95 US
We all know you can't tell a book by its cover, but when you're in Chapters surrounded by a gazillion volumes all shouting "read ME, read ME!", you just won't ever get past the covers to give most of them a second chance. So I'm glad I read the opening pages of Ed Willett's Andy Nebula, Interstellar Rock Star, on the author's web page. The garish, clunky cover composition of a guitar silhouette, a many-limbed alien who appears to be tap-dancing to scattered musical notes, and a pair of disembodied eyes brooding really slapped me in the face when I pulled the book off the shelf. It must have been there on the web site too, but I guess at actual size it had more impact.
It's the one and only flaw in this YA sf adventure book, and clearly forgivable: The Canadian Children's Book Centre has named Andy Nebula to their Our Choice list, and it's also in the running for the Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award for 2001.
Having gotten my one gripe out of the way, let me tell you something of what it is about this book that makes you sit up and take notice. You've got Kit, a young street musician; you've got drugs; you've got rock music. Pretty contemporary, right? But Willett does more than just dress the story up in futuristic clothes and call it sf. It's the combination of the familiar with the speculative that lifts AndyNebula above the crowd.
Kit is a familiar enough hero type: a tough, streetsmart, and untrusting teen who, once outside his own element, finds he is more vulnerable than he thought, and learns to value friendship. His world is big-city nasty, but from page one we know we are in another time and
place thanks to Willett's deft and never-faltering use of a convincing
invented slang. Introduced gradually enough that the reader not only
keeps up but actually revels in Kit's street dialect: it is still English,
still comprehensible, but turned on its earčnot unlike the constantly
mutating teen slang of our own world. For example, Kit wants to get in out of the rain
at Fat Sloan's flophouse:
Then there's the alien Hydras. Their insides are as weird as the visible tentacles and eyes on stalks and insect-like legs. They have a limited form of memory, and can choose to keep only so much.
These strengths would be nothing without narrative drive, though, and happily Willett does not disappoint here either. There's a whole lot of story packed into the 166 pages of this trade pb., taking Kit from the slimepit of Fistfight City to the many glittering Pleasure Planets, when a talent scout turns him into Andy Nebula, Interstellar Rock Star. But you know the Cinderella story is too good to be true, and soon Kit is fighting for his life.
I even have a last good word for the artist: the alien from the cover goes from clunky to funky when plucked out of the busy colour illustration and pasted onto chapter heads in line drawing form.
Get one copy for yourself, and another for a young person.
---Donna Farley, original review for NCF Guide June 2000
RETURN to Ed Willett in Author Listings.
This page last updated: May 30, 2000
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