Laughing across the cosmos for some 'Happy Meals'
Happy Meals, an Eaton Krone Sci-Fi work, is a fun read. The action is constant, as are the snide comments, and the mockery of the genre tropes. Throughout the reading process, I couldn’t help thinking this could well be the offspring of mixing Dr Who, Thundercats, and the campest early Star Trek episodes. It follows the constipated human Scout, who is both figuratively and physically full of it, and his alien crew; the sexy Faylin female pirate and her alien crew; the cannibal natives of a Dumb Planet; and the murderous forces trying to take over it all.
Mr Krone uses humour well. He is clearly not scared to be somewhat crass, at times bitingly sarcastic, at others childishly silly. The whole ‘footnote’ section serves as testament: one would expect explanation of the terms used, the details on this alternate universe, yet one is presented with more of a social commentary. Similarly, he successfully uses the tropes as props, simplifying his need for explanation and relying on the audience’s own reading skills.
This is a jaunty romp, not a deep understanding of humanity. Expect fun and explosions, but not so much character development.
Who would enjoy this
Happy Meals is a great option for lovers of space fiction with an adult taste for off-colour jokes, and nostalgia for the earlier creations of the genre. This is particularly true for those who understand the tongue-in-cheek, eye-roll-earning silliness used to criticise sexualisation, racism, imperialism, stereotyping, cultural snobbery, etcetera.
Who should give this a pass
I would not suggest Happy Meals to readers looking for a new Phillip K Dick or an Isaac Asimov type of book. As other reviewers have pointed out, this is more in a Douglas Adams wavelength. This is no profound philosophical manifesto in story form, but humour in a Sci-Fi format.
Conclusions and suggestions
Happy Meals is an entertaining read, no two ways about it. It is quick-paced, smartly structured, wisely entrenched in its sub-genre. Mr Krone knows the scope, clear limits to which he adheres throughout.
Much as I have enjoyed this book, however, I found myself jarred by two elements:
The first is the, at times, dizzying action. And by dizzying, I mean the constant movement and directions explained in the spaces described. I could be generous claiming this was done on purpose, to get the reader to feel as lost and uncertain as the characters. Sadly, I don’t really buy into that explanation, since it is not constant enough an effect.
The second issue I had was with Reg’s sudden personality change. Where for more than half the story the Scout behaves in a certain way, even within his own head, all of a sudden this changes. There is an attempt at giving him a family history background to explain his previous attitudes, which is as blunt as it is ineffective.
The main things which can be learned from Happy Meals are, in my view:
· Use your tropes wisely, whether to build on them, or to show them up. Even if you disagree with one, you can demonstrate why it is wrong by demonstrating how it doesn’t hold up within the story.
· Humour is wonderful, when used consistently (not necessarily constantly, though, unless you are certain you can keep the same level and rhythm from start to finish).
· If your character is to alter its behaviour, ensure enough lapses or inner doubts take place before the event itself. Foreshadowing works with character development just as much as with mystery solving.