Tom Holt



382pp/$13.99/June 2010

Blonde Bombshell

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

While the majority of Tom Holt's novel have played with the ideas of various gods and monsters coming to life in our mundane world, in Blonde Bombshell, Holt turns his attend to science fiction, introducing the Oster, a canine race who are set on the destruction of Earth because we're playing the music too loudly. Holt splits his points of view between George Stetchkin, a security professional who believes his dog was kidnapped by aliens, Lucy Pavlov, a computer genius who has replaced Microsoft as the go-to company for technology, and Mark Two, an intelligent Oster bomb, which goes by the name Mark Twain.

Holt juggles the three story lines well, and introduces interesting, if quirky, difficulties to each.  Stetchkin is shot early in the novel by two mugs straight out of film noir central casting.  Pavlov questions her sanity when she spots what looks like a unicorn on her private property in Novosibirsk.  Mark Twain must figure out how to make his way among humans after he downloads part of himself into an anthropomorphic probe in perhaps the most satirical sections of the book.  Eventually, Holt begins to bring all his plot lines together, creating a business relationship between Stetchkin and Pavlov, and a rather stranger one between Pavlov and Mark Twain.

Along the way, Holt provides details of the Oster society, heavily based on the concept of the Alpha male.  Oster civilization is not entirely fleshed out, but Holt shows enough of it that the reader can get the feel for ways in which it is similar, and more importantly, different than our own civilization.  Holt doesn’t present the Oster as any sort of Utopian society, but merely as a race that is as egotistical as our own trying (perhaps) to preserve what they perceive as their place in the universe.

Not only does Mark Twain’s attempts to fit into our culture provide a look at human society, notably the bomb’s short-lived career in a cubicle farm, but other agents of the Oster find a similarly difficult time adapting to their more humanoid forms.  A pair of siblings are sent to Earth on a mysterious, but possibly beneficial, mission which begins with their attempt on Stetchkin’s life.  Their misadventures further allow Holt to look at our culture with his satirical eye.

The plotting of the novel and the humor don’t always work to each other’s benefit and it almost seems as if Holt was damping down his humor in order to plot the intricacies of the attempted Oster destruction of the Earth, the mechanizations of the alien ruling class, and the interactions between his characters (whether human, bomb, or Oster).  However, he does include some clever ideas that could easily be spun off on their own, most notably the Copts, with whom Stetchkin interacts all too briefly.

As an initial foray into humorous science fiction, instead of fantasy, Blonde Bombshell demonstrates that Holt can make the leap to science fiction.  His aliens are interesting, even before he reveals their secret, and their attempts to get by on each, no matter what their form, is wonderful.

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