By Mitch Benn
Terra is a very different novel. It doesn't take itself too seriously and on the surface appears very light-hearted, a safe novel with prose full of soft curves rather than sharp edges. This is after all a young-adult novel and yet there is much more to this book than meets the eye.
The story follows that of a young Terra, "rescued" as a baby by alien biologist "Lbbp" after her parents are involved in a collision with Lbbp's cloaked space ship. She is brought up on a world where she is the alien, light years from her home planet. It's not entirely clear what Lbbp is indeed rescuing Terra from, the crashed car, the arguing parents or perhaps from humanity itself. No one on Lbbp's planet Mlml trusts humanity, no one can understand why humanity seems intent on destroying itself or indeed destroying our home planet "Rrth". Lbbp feels that perhaps Rrth isn't as doomed as his people think, or at least that the planet is worth further study.
Eleven years pass and Terra is ready to go to school for the first time, an alien experience at the best of times; magnified by Terra's surroundings and different class-mates. Here the author provides an insightful look into starting school, especially when you are "different" and yet like the rest of the book it is very subtly done. Of course Terra has been brought up by "aliens" and as such the character acts a reflection on just how "alien" humans themselves are as she herself tries to find her own identity and place in the universe.
You can probably tell from the paragraphs above that there are a lot of unusual phrases and names that seem to consist entirely of consonants with not a vowel in sight. Of course this is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek stab at the way fantasy novels of the past have used quite silly names and is quite brave. It does however provide a slight stumble block to smooth reading (especially for those who are dyslexic) but to be fair it's never prolific enough to be a real issue.
There is satire in abundance and a faint hint of Douglas Adams along with a great deal of genuine, original humour. The story plays out very well but seems a little brief, the focus placed on Terra rather than events around her.
As I said at the beginning, Terra is a very different novel. It's brave, it's clever and a pretty much irresistable from beginning to end.
Written on 17th September 2013 by Ant .