Review: The Twiller

Review: The Twiller

Title: The Twiller
Author: David Derrico
Publisher: none listed at Amazon, appears to be self-published
Genre(s): science fiction, humor
File size: 359kb
Release date: June 15, 2010
Price at time of writing: ninety-nine cents (introductory)
Also available as a paperback for $9.77

Science fiction can be profound, using a speculative framework to show us the deepest secrets in our collective psyche, and to perhaps serve as a warning of what our worst natures may bring, and an inspiration as to how the human imagination can bring about a better existence.

Or, you know, it can be silly and full of puns.  ;)

The Twiller, by David Derrico, is very solidly in the second camp.

While the author claims in his foreword to have “stolen” the funny parts from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I’d say it is more of a Gulliver’s Travels for the 21st Century.

While there are certainly elements in common with Adams (an odd fascination with terry cloth, for one), the book’s hapless hero (Ian Harebungler) travels to a variety of “lands” (planets, in this case), each a parody of a part of the United States.  They also all have social commentary, although presented in a thoroughly inoffensive, whimsical manner.

For example, an alien society has political candidates whose political favor is openly purchased by special interest groups: to the extent of wearing corporate logos in “some bizarre combination of a business suit and a race-car driver’s outfit” and working commercials into their speeches.

When our nominal hero confronts an alien (who has been paid by its employer to be at a rally…in fact, its entire job is to support candidates on behalf of the corporation), they argue about the relative benefits of openly purchased politicians and the kinds of donations we see in American elections. 

The alien exclaims:

“Your planet must be backwards if the purchasing of favorable legislation isn’t even all out in the open!”

It’s that sort of thought (and discussion) that moves it more into Swiftian territory for me.  Oh, perhaps not with the universal themes of the classic work, but there is that flavor.

Whimsy, though, is also a key element.  Here’s a description of a hostile spaceship:

“The ship looked as if it were the sort of ship that was perpetually ready to pounce at any other starship, asteroid, or planet it saw, and as if it very much desired to do a wide range of not very nice things to whatever it pounced upon.  It always looked as if it were at the end of a very bad day, the sort of Tuesday afternoon that just dragged on with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.”

I think that gives you a good feel for it.  :)

It reminded me of some of the Oz stories (where they wander from one punny land to another), some of Arthur Byron Cover (the Platypus of Doom came to mind), and Daniel Pinkwater (The Snark-Out Boys).

Speaking of Pinkwater, who writes books classified as children’s stories, this book is also listed in the children’s category…but I can’t imagine it appealing very much to a ten-year old.  I doubt the Sisyphean task of reviewing commas in contracts is going to amuse your average kid.

However, it is nice to note that there isn’t anything inappropriate for ten-year olds.  You could probably hear all of the language on the Disney Channel (cr*p is as bad as it gets), and except for the unfortunate use of the word “retarded” as an insult (I’d say “stupid” could have served just as well), there really isn’t anything offensive.  Snarky, perhaps, but the overarching goal seems to be the production of mirth.  :)

One other point: I know some of you are reluctant to try self-published books because of a concern about proof-reading and such.  Relax: The Twiller is as error-free as any novel from a traditional publisher that I’ve read.  The author also understands formatting for e-books: the clickable Table of Contents is in the back (and reachable through the menus), which is also where you’ll find the author bio.  Why is that better?  So you can get a better sample.  You can also flick right (on any Kindle except a Kindle 1) to move forward through the parts of the book…a convenience many large publishers seem to ignore.

The paperback lists this as Volume 1, so perhaps we’ll see more of Ian Harebungler and his companion, The Twiller.  I’m sure that will depend in part on you, the reading public, and how well-received it is. 

So, if you are looking for a light and airy entertainment, a popcorn book with an intergalactic setting, The Twiller is a button-pusher that will keep you smiling. 

Full disclosure: I was given a review copy to read by the author.  Outside of that, we’ve never met, except for a few comments exchanged electronically. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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6 Responses to “Review: The Twiller”

  1. David Derrico Says:

    Thanks very much for the review — I’m very glad you enjoyed it!

    As for the categories, I intended for it to be in “young adult,” but not “children’s.” When selecting categories through DTP, I used a category under “juvenile,” and it got classified along with Twilight / Harry Potter in YA (which is good), but also Curious George in children’s (which, as you point out, is too young). I’ll try to tweak the categories, but I don’t think Amazon has a specific “young adult” category for me to choose.

    You are right, though, that I did try to avoid any offensive language (I think it can be funny without that stuff), and even removed one instance of “retarded” since I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. I will likely remove the instance I missed in a future update, so thanks for pointing that out.

    Oh, and it’s good to see that people appreciate the formatting — it takes a lot of research and work to get the file “just so” with a clickable TOC, waypoints, etc. I figured you would be one of the “Kindle connoisseurs” who would notice! =)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      No problem, David!

      Hey, I even bought a copy (I wanted my notes backed up by Amazon).

      The word shows up in the bar scene on the hot planet (don’t want to give too much away). Of course, it’s electronic, so you can just search for it.

      Hey, some of Heinlien used to get classified as children’s, I believe…I know Andre Norton did. You are in good company.

  2. Dave Freer Says:

    Hmm. Well it sounds like I should read it. One minor point, Bufo my friend… it’s apparent the book made you think (rather than, perhaps, thinking for you and telling you what to think) which is typical of great satire – such as Pilgrims Progress or Huckleberry Finn, and like much great satire, it was easy to read (speaking from experience, this means hard to write. That takes skill, Any fool can write turgid and boring)) So, the book might be easy to read, entertaining and cheerful and amusing (which you could say about Huckleberry Finn). If it made you think, ‘light’ is not the right description ;-). Sadly that become the insult-of-choice in academia and among the literati, to dismiss books that they can’t write and extract value from the intellect of the reader rather than spoonfeed a prescribed meme.

    cheers
    Dave (whose natural style and writing began at a readability index of 19 years of education and was so boring it could have been sold as an insomnia cure. I’ve spent 20 years learning to be ‘light’ – or at least accessible :-))

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Dave!

      I find many words that people use as an insult to be a positive for me. :) I define “light” in the case of reading by how “thick” it is…how long it takes to process any given paragraph. I would never call Charles Fort light reading, or Tolkien or Dunsany. I would call Burroughs light, though.

      I recognize the use of “light” to mean insubstantial, and unimportant. Academics naturally prefer books that are hard to read; that, after all, plays to their strengths. Similarly, I know medical people who don’t want some of the tasks they do to get easier: that lessens their value.

      In terms of writing at different levels, I completely understand that. Advertising folks and technical writers get paid quite a bit of money to distill ideas to their essences. Easy is hard…although I wouldn’t say hard is easy. :) I love writing in different styles, personally: it’s a fun challenge. :)

      One last point…everything makes me think, so that’s not a very high barrier. ;)

  3. Ching Molander Says:

    Halloween is coming! Where can I order a nice costume online?

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