Review: Awesome Lavratt, by Ann Wilkes

Okay, so I got sent Awesome Lavratt what seems like a billion years ago but was, my email tells me, was mid April. Which is actually pretty far away from July, and somebody should probably look into that. I read it, thought about it, wrote my university finals, started working, and once again proved my unreliability by putting Awesome Lavratt back on the shelf and promptly forgetting about it.

I hadn’t forgotten about it all the way, though. Every once in a while there’d be a little tingle in my brain, like: “Haven’t you reviewed that book yet, self?” or “Hmm, maybe I should write to Ann and apologize” or just “How in the hoopla am I supposed to review Awesome Lavratt?”. And that last was maybe the biggest probelm: I was torn as to how to review it. I still am. I am … deeply ambivalent about Awesome Lavratt, which is disturbing to me because I like being able to make up my mind, and also because I personally feel better being able to give books a solid yea or nay. Ambuguity can be distressing.

Aw, well. Distress or nothing, let’s do this thing.

Here’s the back cover:

Beautiful Aranna Navna plans to conquer the galaxy one planet at a time. She steals the Awesome Lavratt, a mind control device, from a freighter in Horace Whistlestop’s junkyard. Then things go from bad to worse for Aranna. The Lavratt, however, has only just begun! Oh, the fun you can have from a small cube with mind control powers. Travel the galaxy with Tyrantz Lavratt. Silly science fiction at its best. All puns intended.

This blurb is a good example of some of the things wrong with this book. Notice that we are introduced to Aranna Navna, but end with Tyrantz Lavratt (who is, as it turns out, the entity within the mind-control cube). Characters come and go in Awesome Lavratt with little sense of continuity; the story begins with Horace, transfers to Aranna, changes mid-book to Tyrantz, and ends with some people named Gurmt and Salmig. The trouble is that when the story shifts focus, the characters it had been following are summarily discarded.

I know that this happens a lot in novels. But here’s the thing: Awesome Lavratt isn’t a full-length novel. I don’t know whether it’s technically a novella or a just a very long short story, but the copy I have clocks in at 94 pages. It is way too short for what it’s trying to do. Way, way too short.

Because here’s the kicker: Awesome Lavratt is definitely flawed, but it’s still a really fun story. Ann has created a really imaginative universe that has a lot of the same texture as you get in Star Wars novelizations. It’s funny and full of adventure, and I think it’s obvious that the author had a heck of a lot of fun writing it. But the story is too short for the plot. This means that a lot of characterization falls by the wayside, for example, while including more characterization and spending more time with all of the characters would have probably made for much less jarring transitions. The plot is aching to be treated as a full-length novel. And it’s not.

Therein my dilemma. The problem with Awesome Lavratt (besides some apostrophe abuse) is not that it’s bad per se, but that it could/should have been so much better.

There is good news, though. I have heard that Ann Wilkes is currently working on a full-length sequel, which will be featuring Horace Whistlestop. That, I think will be a good thing.

And now, that’s all I have to stay.

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