Posted: 17 July 2013 in family, fiction
Tags: ,

It’ll be no surprise to anyone reading this, I’m sure, that Mitch Benn, that superbly funny, clever man who writes clever, funny songs for BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show, is one of my closest friends. Anyone who follows me on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook couldn’t have failed to note our friendship. It was with Mitch that I did my Twenty-Four Hours of Fast Fiction challenge for Comic Relief, while he was creating a comedy album in the same room during the same twenty-four hours.

I’ve been a fan of his work for far longer than we’ve been friends – we met at the filming of his masterpiece I’M PROUD OF THE BBC*, and becoming close has led if anything to a greater appreciation of his work, and how damn hard he works to get it… right.

I couldn’t begin to describe how many hours of pleasure I’ve had listening to his songs, how many laughs I’ve had at his lyrics, and the gags.

And now he’s written a novel. And it’s a cracker. And all the pleasure, all the cleverness, all the heart, all the fun… it’s there in the book in spades.

How’d the book come about? Well, Mitch tells the story better than I could. All I’ll add is that I’ve read Dreaming Dragons and I really want him to do something with that as well. It’s charming and clever and funny and sweet.

Not exactly by coincidence, they’re also words I’d use to describe Terra, the novel which is officially released tomorrow, but if you’re very lucky, you’ll be able to find on the shelves of Waterstones already.

I was fortunate enough to be able to read Terra at various stages in the writing, and it’s been an honest joy to see the final story evolve and arrive.

I’m not sure what I could say about the book that hasn’t already been said by others far more qualified to review books.

Things like:

“Wonderfully human and close to home, with a warmth that glows like ET’s heart” — THE TIMES

“Instantly engaging”, “One of the best debuts I’ve read this year” — Geeks Friday Reads

“there’s also a tenderness, gentleness, poignancy and vulnerability. We not only laugh out loud and sit on the edge of our seats when the suspense hits, but we cry too.” – Bookbag.co.uk

“A brilliantly unique tale of aliens with a poignant message for humanity” — SciFi Now Magazine

What’s the book about? It’s about 272 pages… thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week… yeah, you can see why I leave the gags to my friends.

So, the story is about a baby, thought to be abandoned by her parents (fairly understandably, they panicked when a brightly lit spaceship suddenly appeared directly above their car… perhaps less understandably, they left the baby in the car when they ran away…). The alien’s named Lbpp (get used to the lack of vowels, they’re going to be important) and he’s a scientist, a biologist; the deliberate abandonment of the baby fits in with his view of humanity from his observations, and rather than leave the infant, an impulse takes him and… yeah, you can see where this is going. Far more than Lbpp.

Twelve years later, the baby, named Terra (in part because of origins, in part because it’s a name that even the vowel-less speakers of the planet Fnrr can pronounce) is ready for what we’d call ‘big school’. Alienation is something that hits all kids – how much worse is it when you’re the alien.

No one ever dreamed what would happen next. And there’s a reason for that.

Terra is about alienation, about families, about growing up, and how you never ever stop learning about yourself, your family, your friends and even those you don’t like.

Every single character in this book is changed by the situations in which they’re placed; every single line drives the story forward. And the tale is all the better for it.

There are thrills, there is fun, there are genuine laugh out loud moments.

And Mitch’s voice shines through the writing… particularly so if you get the audiobook… The unabridged audiobook is read by the author and though there are a few surprises therein (who knew that character sounded like that? I thought he sounded like THAT…), again, you get the pleasure from an author who really knows who his characters are, and how to let the readers/listeners know.

A couple of things to end on.

Here’s a trailer video, animated by Bill Greenhead, with music by – of course – Mitch Benn:

What? You still need convincing?

Here’s the first chapter, read by some people who ought to be familiar faces… and familiar voices.

You can buy Terra here:
Amazon Waterstones Audible (Audiobook)

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