Towards the unmaking of Heaven
Balant: A Beginning
By Sam Smith
Paperback: 212 pages
Publisher: The EBookSale Publishing (1 May 2009)
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
I can never tire of visiting alien planets, their populations, and wondering if they are doing me good or evil. While many contemporary science fiction hide from planetary exploration and delve instead into quantum introspection, Smith delights us with this tale of discovery and survival. Yet for those intent on intellectual contemplation there are opportunities to engage with Pi when he approaches each conundrum with delightful logic and consequence prediction. As Smith declares, this is a Boys Own adventure – perhaps too literally as I believe the lack of a female main character disenfranchises many female readers. I know a young woman is a protagonist in Happiness, the next in the series, so women readers stay on course!
The adventure is told through the eyes of Pi Pandy, who’s had a sheltered life but made to grow up real fast surviving the jibes of his two friends, insect bites, space criminals, savages and a series of mechanical breakdowns he is clever enough to repair. This is more than hard scifi, Pi has to learn quickly the wiles of a spectrum of humanity. He has integrity in bucketfuls but wise enough to develop discretion then use his knowledge at the right time – not just for his own survival but for friends and other needy people.
The wide scale of ideas, space and human emotions, even though for young adult takes this novel into a Robert Heinlein-for-teens sub-genre. Sam’s poetry background shines through the exquisite narrative. A page turner fit for any imaginative young adult’s bookshelf.