Paragaea by Chris Roberson
|Once upon a time there was no such thing as Science Fiction. Well, of course there was, but it was not called such until Hugo Gernsback coined the term in Amazing Stories in the 1920's. (Well, at first is was Scientifiction, but the syntactical relationship is quite obvious.)|
Previously, the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison and the like were referred to as romances. In modern publishing the term has come to mean bodice-rippers and the like, but originally it was a catch-all for adventure.
Subtitled 'A Planetary Romance,' Paragaea is aptly named.
Not only does it hearken back to a more innocent time in SF, Paragaea also embodies everything lovely and wondrous about the genre before it was, while applying a glossy new coat of modernism.
Leena is a cosmonaut, one of the first to orbit Earth, when she comes upon a radiant gateway leading to an alternate land, Paragaea. After crash landing on this strange foreign land, she is immediately taken prisoner by jaguar-human creatures, until she is rescued by the swashbuckling Hero Bonaventure and the vanquished prince of the jaguar people, Balam.
The three quickly form a partnership, and begin a quest to find a way in which to return Leena to the Soviet Union, where duty calls.
That premise is a bit ridiculous, I'll grant. It's silly and childish and the adventures our merry band embark upon are each more preposterous than the last. We're even treated to the obvious romantic tryst between Leena and Hero.
But for all that, it's a hell of a lot of fun. I smiled my way through this book in just a few short hours. I enjoyed each and every moment, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the absurdity of it.
Roberson dedicates the book to Edgar Rice Burroughs, (Barsoom, Tarzan) Alex Raymond, (Flash Gordon) and David Gerrold. (Land of The Lost, Star Trek, much else) There are obvious nods to each in Paragaea, and each were accomplished quite well. If classic adventure yarns turn your crank, then Paragaea is that one classic tale you've never been able to find in stores or libraries. It's a throwback, a real gem.
Chris Roberson, in addition to being a writer, is, along with his wife, the owner of Monkeybrain Books. Monkeybrain is a fine small publisher, having recently released John Picacio's Cover Story* and Kim Newman's The Man From The Diogenes Club. (Which I purchased at Readercon and will review here shortly.)
Paragaea is a mildly collectible volume. It's worthy of a place in your collection, but I would not invest in it. That, of course, could change if Roberson's success continues.
*Daily required Picacio reference.