Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic

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At the center of the galaxy, a vast, unknown civilization is preparing for an event of epic proportions: the launching of the greatest, most gorgeous, most technologically advanced Starship ever built - the Starship Titanic. The night before the launch, Leovinus, the galaxy's most renowned architect, is prowling around the ship having a last little look. With mounting alarm he begins to find things are not right: unfinished workmanship, cybersystems not working correctly, robots colliding with doors. How could ...
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Douglas Adams's Starship Titanic

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At the center of the galaxy, a vast, unknown civilization is preparing for an event of epic proportions: the launching of the greatest, most gorgeous, most technologically advanced Starship ever built - the Starship Titanic. The night before the launch, Leovinus, the galaxy's most renowned architect, is prowling around the ship having a last little look. With mounting alarm he begins to find things are not right: unfinished workmanship, cybersystems not working correctly, robots colliding with doors. How could this have happened? Something somewhere is terribly wrong. On the following day, in an artificial event staged for the media, the Starship Titanic will leave its construction dock under autopilot and, a few days later, make its way to the terminal to pick up passengers for its maiden voyage. Hugely, magnificently, the fabulous ship eases its way forward from the construction dock, picks up speed, sways a bit, wobbles a bit, veers wildly, and just before it can do massive damage to everything around it, appears to undergo SMEF (Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure). In just ten seconds, the whole, stupendous enterprise is over. And our story has just begun.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Starship Titanic, the crowning work of Leovinus, "the greatest genius of his age," has been sabotaged by Antar Brobostigan and his corrupt accountant, Droot Scraliontis, in an insurance scam that bankrupts the planet of Yassacca. On its maiden flight, the ship suffers SMEF (Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure) and winds up on Earth, where its robots invite a quarrelsome trio of ordinary humans aboard. A journalist stowaway falls in love with one of them, but the beloved must put him off long enough to talk an artificially intelligent bomb out of exploding the ship. Jones, one of the creators of Monty Python's Flying Circus, has taken a story line by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) and incubated it in a rich medium of whimsy and satire to produce this absurd, rollicking space adventure. The plot makes just enough sense to exist at all; indeed the narration often goes back on itself, canceling things out or ridiculously revising. It is the scenes that count, like TV sitcom scenes, full of one-liners, many very funny, but with a modicum of clunkers. There is an embedded satire of commercial airline jargon and of all that is bureaucratically officious. The catalogue of characters' names itself is a riot: Unctimpoter, Inchbewigglit, Buke-Hammadorf. Now and then, the tone becomes too precious, and the occasional attempts at a kind of psychological naturalism in exploring the Earthlings' feelings fall flat. The book succeeds in its main purpose, however: it will make readers laugh. (Oct.)
VOYA - Rayna Patton
A newly built spaceship, victim of cost cutting and financial chicanery, undergoes Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure during its launching. Shortly afterward, it appears halfway across the universe. The Greatest Genius the Galaxy has Ever Known finds himself in an English jail without a Universal Translator. Three humans and a Blerotin journalist board the spaceship, which is carrying a soon-to-detonate bomb. Emotional and sexual alliances shift. Several villains get their just deserts. A planet of kindly dedicated craftspeople is rescued from financial ruin. A gorgeous airhead takes a degree in Higher Mathematics, and a parrot turns out to be an undercover agent. Put these and a few more plot elements together and you have the outline of this book. As the introduction by Adams explains, this is a novel based on a computer game. It can best be described as Adams Light. All the familiar Douglas Adams elements are here: a plot laced with logical impossibilities; seriocomical footnotes that do and do not explain the clearly impossible; and humanoid aliens. Something, however, is missing. Is it heart? Brain? Or just length? For here, disguised by big print, generous line spacing, and margins, is a rather short novel. Novels spun off from movies (and, it now appears, computer games) are usually this way. Still, you will want to buy it for your Adams fans, who are sure to enjoy it. Readers will almost certainly be led to the Web site (address given), and probably to the CD-ROM game as well. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Library Journal
Conceived by Adams, author of the cult classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and executed by Sheckley (The Draconian New York, Forge, 1996), this story concerns the most technologically advanced starship ever designed and the very human tensions that arise among the Architect, the Manager, and the Accountant when the ship is finished.
School Library Journal
YAJones, of Monty Python fame, has successfully translated Adams's vision into a manic interstellar romp that is a welcome companion to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series. Starship was launched into the public's consciousness as a brief sentence in Life, the Universe and Everything (Pocket, 1990) and, after experiencing Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure, has resurfaced as a well-received CD-ROM game and as this amusing novel. With not much more plot than a Seinfeld episode, Starship follows the efforts of a cast of daft characters who must earn a free upgrade on the most extravagant and technologically advanced ship ever created. Their mission is to bring the ship's lobotomized computer brain back online while distracting a single-minded bomb and battling an army of hostile shipbuilders who do more good than harm. Absurdities pile on oddities, leaving oxygen-starved readers gasping between giggles. This collaborative effort between Jones and Adams sparkles with the inane humor and fondness for the ridiculous that has earned them a cult following. It will be popular with their many fans and the release of the CD-ROM in April will create new converts among the few who have thus far missed the boat.Robin Deffendall, Prince William Public Library System, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Adams (the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, etc.) contributed the idea, such as it is, while Monty Python's Jones wrote the book. Planet Blerontin's greatest architect, Leovinus, has designed and built Starship Titanic, the biggest, most sumptuous, most advanced spaceship ever. On the eve of the ship's launch, he finds that, what with huge cost overruns, the ship isn't even half complete and its robot brain, Titania, has been unplugged; worse, the manager, Brobostigon, and the accountant, Scraliontis, are plotting to scuttle the ship and collect the insurance money. Off thunders the ship with only Leovinus and The Journalist aboard; it undergoes Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure and ends up on Earth, where it acquires three passengers—Lucy, Nettie, and Dan, who must contend with supercilious robots, lascivious aliens, talking bombs, mad parrots, and a Captain's Bridge that consists entirely of video-game consoles.

Both Jones and Adams possess impressive comic credentials, so there are some amusing moments—but otherwise it's pretty thin and familiar fare.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613164306
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Format: Library Binding

Meet the Author

Terry Jones is one of the original creators of Monty Python's Flying Circus. He is also a film and television director, a scriptwriter, a medieval scholar, and author of various children's books, including the award-winning The Saga of Erik the Viking and (with Michael Palin) Dr. Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge. He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

None of them could have told you how long the attack went on for, but it seemed like several lifetimes to the three figures huddled on the Captain's Bridge. The noise, the vibration, the crashing and bucking of the giant Starship went on and on. . . .

When it was all over, they waited and then stood up, trembling and shaking. The first wave was returning to the main fleet; meanwhile, a second wave was peeling off.

"Here they come again!" yelled Dan, and he and Lucy ducked down once more beneath the console. But The Journalist remained standing, with a curious expression on his face.

Lucy and Dan braced themselves for the gunfire . . . but it didn't come. Instead there was an odd "rather unmartial" banging on the hull of the ship.

"Yassaccans!" muttered The Journalist. Both Lucy and Dan assumed this was another alien expletive and remained under cover, but then The Journalist nudged Dan and said: "Look!"

Dan cautiously put his head above the console and peered out of the window: the second wave of spaceships had pulled up all around the Starship, and an army of short and stocky spacesuited figures were swarming over the hull, hammering and welding as they went.

"What the blazes?" asked Dan.

"They're repairing the damage," explained The Journalist. "Yassaccans are like that! They hate injuring hardware!"

Meanwhile the voice boomed out over the loudspeakers again: "We shall recommence our attack as soon as the first damage has been repaired! If you do not surrender, we shall board and dispose of everyone we find!"

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, November 19th, welcomed Douglas Adams and Terry Jones, author of DOUGLAS ADAMS' STARSHIP TITANIC.

Moderator: Welcome, Douglas Adams and Terry Jones! We're glad we could catch you for a minute during your busy tour. How are you tonight?

Terry Jones: We're having a great time tonight. In my opinion, this is the greatest tour I've been on. Though Terry says it's a bit like the Second World War.

Lucy from Virginia: Doug, I see your picture here and think you're really cute. Any chance you're single?

Terry Jones: It's very sweet of you -- but I'm married with a child. If anything should happen to them, I'll be online to you instantly.

George from Florida: Isn't there a new Dirk Gently novel out in Europe? When is that due here?

Terry Jones: No, there isn't. I started THE FAMINE OF DOUBT but dropped it to do the CD-ROM Starship Titanic. I may rework him into a Hitchhiker novel soon, where I think he'll fit better.

Fred from New York: Terry, I loved your Lady Cottington books. Any other ones forthcoming? What else are you working on right now?

Terry Jones: No other Lady Cottington books are on the way, but I am working on STRANGE STAINS AND MYSTERIOUS SMELLS with Brian Froud. At the moment I've got a film called "The Wind and the Willows," which was released last week and got rave reviews. I'm writing a new film called "Longitude" and a children's historical epic called "Knight and the Squire," about a boy in 1359.

Barry from Columbus: What is it like to go from writing about medieval times to futuristic events?

Terry Jones: Well, it's not so much a great leap as you might imagine. When you're writing about the Middle Ages, you're writing about right now; you're writing about what interests you and what you like. I like writing about fantasy whether it's in the past or future.

Tom from Ohio: Terry, you're one of the voices on the video game, right? What was it like working on the CD-ROM?

Terry Jones: It was very humiliating. I was given a huge amount of dialogue with no purpose, no meaning, and no end. It was like life, really. And I was being a parrot, which again is a lot like life.

Charlie Miller from Corning, New York: What is it like working with Douglas Adams?

Terry Jones: Well, Douglas and I have known each other for 25 years, and we always knew we would collaborate on something, but until now it was only dinners. It came as a surprise to both of us, but it's been really good fun!

Elizabeth Fregget from London: Has this book been published in Britain? Do you two find that Americans receive your work differently than the English? What's the difference in senses of humor?

Terry Jones: The book isn't out in England. A lot is made of the difference, but I think it's more apparent than real. We get the best of American comedy in England, Friend, "Seinfeld," and so on, and a lot of English humor makes it here -- Python, Benny Hill, and so on. There is some humor that doesn't make it. Johnny Carson didn't make it because of the opening dialogue about what was happening in America. In translation I think the Hitchhiker books do really well in German but terribly in French.

Dylan Flipse from Williamsport, PA: What was your most and least favorite part about making the game?

Terry Jones: The most favorite part was the first meetings when everyone would get together to chuck in ideas about what should go into the scenes -- it was riotously fun. The worst part was testing things that just wouldn't work.

Matt from New York: Douglas, I loved your travel book LAST CHANCE TO SEE. I thought it was brilliant. Any chance for a follow-up along those lines?

Terry Jones: I'd love to do something like that. It won't be in the immediate future because I have a three-year-old daughter, so I don't want to be away for months at a time...maybe when she starts taking drugs....

C. Owen Marshall from Columbus, Ohio: How did you two meet?

Terry Jones: I met Terry when I turned up to be an extra at a Python shooting in 1975. He was wearing a pink frock and helping to load a nuclear device into the back of a truck. I remember thinking, When I do my first multimedia CD-ROM, this is the man I want to write the novel of it.

Michael from Nashville: Who's your favorite fiction/fantasy author?

Terry Jones: My favorites are two: P.G. Wodehouse and Kurt Vonnegut. This should not be surprising.

Doug from Avon, CT: Mr. Adams, why did you not want to write this book entirely yourself? I am a big fan of your Hitchhiker's Guide books.

Terry Jones: Because I was committed to write the game, and I couldn't write both simultaneously. Terry happened to come in and look at the stuff and asked if he could do anything else besides the parrot voice, and I said sure, write the novel. I'm not giving up writing, I just couldn't do this one, and I always wanted to collaborate with Terry. It turns out we've influenced each other in many ways over the years, and so it's a mutual thing.

Stephanie Selbert from Maryland: Which of you had more say over the final version of the book? Terry, was it difficult to write someone else's story?

Terry Jones: The way it worked out, a clear story arose from the game, which I then developed into a film treatment. And then Terry took that and wrote the novel from it. I specifically said, Take your freedom, you should not make it like the game.

Charlie Miller from Corning, New York: Who is the green life-form on the cover of the Hitchhiker books, and why is he/she/it not in the story?

Terry Jones: That green guy was nothing to do with me, it was the invention of the artist who did the covers.

Owen from Columbus Ohio: What do you do when you aren't writing?

Terry Jones: Well, I read, I play with my daughter, I play music, and when I can I scuba dive -- though I can't do a lot of that in London.

Fred from Nevada: Doug, I loved the adventure computer game based on HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE. Did you have anything to do with that? What did you think of it?

Terry Jones: I had a great deal to do with it. It was a collaboration between me and Steve Meretzky, who was the implementer who worked with me on it.

Vivica from Los Angeles: Terry, did you have anything to do with the CD-ROMs based on the Monty Python works as well?

Terry Jones: Not very much. Seventh Level produced those, Terry Gilliam had a big influence, and I came up with a few ideas.

Dylan Flipse from Williamsport, PA: What are your feelings on your old Monty Python days?

Terry Jones: Well, they were great fun. They don't seem that long ago, so I don't spend much time looking back on them. Like memories, they are my friends. I had quite a lot of laughs.

KDebbie from Texas: Terry, do you think people tend to overlook your writing talents because of your huge success with Monty Python.

Terry Jones: Well, if Python hadn't been such a big success, I might not have had a chance to exercise my writing talents!

Charlie Miller from Corning, New York: Are you planning any sequels to the book or game?

Terry Jones: No, we've got no plans at the moment, though we have talked about the film. We'll have to see how people will like it.

Dylan Flipse from Williamsport, PA: What will set this game above the rest of the schlock on the market right now?

Terry Jones: I think the graphics are superb and the animation...but also I think the linguistic component. The principal thing we've tried to do is bring into a game that's otherwise a graphics game, a natural language engine, which means you have a conversation with any character in the game. So then the characters respond in character, in context to whatever you've said. The games's still not finished so sometimes the results are spooky.

Susan from Mr. Adams, have you been a fan of Monty Python?

Terry Jones: Oh, very much so! I'm a comedy generation after the Pythons -- they're ten years older -- so I was a fan in high school, kind of a rabid fan actually. They were a great influence on my writing, and Terry says on my laundry too....

Mitch from Oregon: Any plans for a full-length feature film based on HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE?

Terry Jones: Well, it's curious you should ask. We are in full negotiations right now and should have an announcement before Christmas.

Charlie Miller from Corning, New York: When will Starship Titanic (the game) be released?

Terry Jones: Early March. It's a great shame it's not out with the novel, but game development is always longer than you think it will be.

Tom from California: Can you tell us a little bit about what the video game is like? Should I read the book beforehand or will that ruin the game?

Terry Jones: No, reading the book will not help with the game. The game and the book are based on the same basic situation, but what actually happens is very different.

Dylan Flipse from Williamsport, PA: Any chance of Arthur, Ford, and the rest coming back from the dead for a sixth book?

Terry Jones: At some point, it's quite likely, though no time frame at the moment.

Moderator: Thanks to both of you for responding to our inquiries tonight! Best wishes for the rest of your tour. Goodnight!

Terry Jones: Thank you very much.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

    Absolute tripe.

    I love Douglas Adams. I love Monty Python.

    This book is absolute trash. I can't put it any more clearly than that. It should simply never have been written.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2004

    One notch below Adams and you have....

    Terry Jones....I think no one but hime could have possibly mastered (or atleast came close to) the Adamsesque form of writing....A wonderful book for not being written by adams himself

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2001

    toilet paper

    Like most Douglas Adams fans, I have been wrestling with myself whether or not to try this book. I tried it. It was awful. I won't give away the ending because I didn't even make it. Terry Jones' attempts at esoteric british humor, fantastically portrayed by everything Adams' put a finger to, are so forced, ridiculous and contrived that I cringed as I turned pages, hoping Adams would somehow make an appearance and reveal the first part as a hoax. He didn't. It stinks.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2001

    Totally Excellent!

    I love this book! Written by a Monty Python with Douglas Adams providing the idea is a recipe for greatness! It's funny, wierd, wacky and silly, all at once.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2000

    Leovinius's brainchild

    This book is a great book for people who like action stories, but still like to laugh. It is about the greatest luxury cruise starship in the known galaxy, or so it was rumored. It was designed to be built by the Yassacans, a humble race of highly acclaimed craftsman, but materials were too costly, and the planet Yassaca went bankrupt trying to complete it. So, the construction was moved to Bleratonia, where corners were cut. Scralontis, Leovinius's accountant, cut down on expenses by leaving things out and buying cheaper materials. Upon the launch, the ship undergoes SMEF and dissappears. Or so everybody thinks. the Starship Titanic ends up crash-landing on Earth, right in the middle of Dan and Lucys rectory. There, Dan, lucy, and Nettie board. It turns out that the whole ship is nothing but a giant spaceship shell. Also, the ship has a bomb planted on it. The only way to shut the bomb is to get Titania, the ships centeral intellegence core running again,and Titania is missing a brain piece. If they can't defuse the bomb, not only will they be taken to their fiery death, but Yassaca will not be able to collect money for the starship....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2000

    Crazy Starship Titanic

    The Starship Titanic was a comical story by Terry Jones following the tradition of Douglas Adam¿s Hitchhiker¿s Guide books. It is a mock science fiction novel that takes every little aspect a real science fiction and tears it to shreds with odd plot twists and nonsense explanations of technical ideas. Robots have insecure personalities and can never seem to make sense, and the off-world aliens are so strange that one can¿t stop laughing. The story starts on a distant planet where the so called 'Galaxy¿s Greatest Genius' Levonius has just designed the biggest, most expensive, most fantastic starship ever built; the Titanic. Levonius had supervised the entire project from his home using advanced virtual-reality. On the night before the big launch Levonius decided to finally visit the ship without his virtual reality goggles. The starship looked beautiful on the outside, but he found that the inside wasn¿t even finished yet! Floors had gaping holes in them, heavy machinery was still all over the place, and worst of all, the electronics were in a chaotic conduction. Talking elevators only wanted to go up, dust sweeping robots were spilling dust instead of cleaning it up, and doorbots were trying to usher Levonius into open cement mixers. As it turned out, the builders had shown Levonius a false virtual world and had cut costs on the ship. They were going to scuttle it for the insurance money. Levonius was mad. On the day of the launch, the ship suffers Super Massive Existence Failure. The author¿s description falters here and the reader never really understands what SMEF is. Maybe that is the authors intent. Somehow though, the ship winds up on earth, and the adventure begins. Terry Jones does a very good job in his story telling. The plot he develops is basically just a bunch of out of order mumbo jumbo, but this is on purpose, and the finial effect is hilarious. Jones greatest strength is in his characterization. Not one character is without depth in the book. One even hears the sorrows of a talking bomb that can never seem to keep his countdown straight. (He never wanted to blow up anyway.) Jones shows the differences between the interplanetary cultures well, with each side thinking the others are completely out of their mind. The Starship Titanic was an entertaining work. It provided the reader with even mix of adventure and comedy. While Terry Jones plot lines and characters are a bit out of the ordinary, the reader still closes the book with an immense feeling of satisfaction. I recommend the book to anyone looking for a good laugh.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Fond memories

    As a kid I always saw my dad reading douglas addams books. We then got a game called starship titanic I loved that game. I was told there was a book that inspired it and I just had to get it. I enjoyed the story and I recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    So far I love it!

    I will read (and then become obsessed with) anything funny and English-sounding, so this book sounds totally awesome.
    I have only read the (rather short) preview to this novel and I must say that so far it is hilarious (albeit confusing)! Terry Jones is brilliant, and so is Douglas Adams. And Outer Space, that, too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Lol refeerence

    In the life the universe and everthing ther is a referenxe to this

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2010

    A frivolous little book

    Knowing this book was the novelization of a video-game, I didn't exactly start off with high expectations. I'm a fan of Terry Jones and I was in the mood for something light and fun. Starship Titanic totally satisfied that want. There were some genuine laugh out loud moments, and the story moves along quite well. I found myself reading 'just one more chapter' often. Its definitely not a masterwork though- with weak, often unrealistic, main characters and a silly little plot. If you're not willing to forgive silliness though, well, this isn't the book for you. Why are you even in this section?

    Not something I'd highly recommend, but an enjoyable read all the same.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2000

    Go Beyond Earth with Terry Jones in Starship Titanic

    Starship Titanic would seem as an ordinary science fiction book, but one look at the cover proves this wrong. Terry Jones wrote the book and it shows. Terry Jones is a member of the Monty Python crew. Monty Python made the hilarious movie 'Monty Python and the Life of Brian.' It is no doubt then that Starship Titanic is funny. It is full of laughs on every page. Starship Titanic explains the story of the huge and luxurious starship, designed by the great architect Leovinus. However, the founders of the project on the planet Blerontin, plan to destroy the starship and collect the insurance money. Unfortunately, Leovinus has a strong attachment to the ship and will let no harm go to it. Then something goes wrong. Just as it prepares to embark on an interstellar ship, it goes into SMEF, Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure. Although it was created so that nothing would go wrong, it disappears. Naturally, everything has its place in the galaxy and it finds itself on earth. The robots onboard ship choose 3 earthlings to help them return to Blerontin. Unlike most people, the three humans, Dan, Lucy, and Nettie, try to help when suddenly the robots begin to act strangely. Nothing else could go wrong when the earthlings find that a bomb literally begins to countdown on ship. This comedy has a plot that has well tied events with intricate explanations. Its characterization is mediocre. Sometimes, it takes too long to finish the characterization and I found that some characters tend to do things that the reader would not expect. Otherwise, it makes you want to keep reading after each chapter. I found it difficult not to wake up in the middle of the night and read it. I liked this book because it had comical jokes, interesting characters, and a surprisingly 'could-be-real' touch to it. I disliked it because it contained parts that could have been elaborated. Quite possibly, this might be one of the funniest comic science fiction stories that exist.

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