Mount Readmore Book Review, 2017 88/100
Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom By Bradley W. Schenck
Finished on 10/19/2017
Description: A madcap, illustrated mashup of classic Buck Rogers and Futurama! Ray-guns! Robots! Rocket-cars! Retropolis! Alliteration! Exclamation points!
Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom is unlike anything else in genre fiction: a gonzo, totally bonkers vision of the future imagined in the 1939 World Fair—a hilarious, illustrated retro-futurist adventure by artist and debut novelist Bradley W. Schenck. It’s a gut-busting look at the World of Tomorrow, populated with dashing, jet-packed heroes, faithful robot sidekicks, mad scientists, plucky rocket engineers, sassy switchboard operators, space pirates, bubble-helmeted canine companions, and more.
After a surprise efficiency review, the switchboard operators of Retropolis find themselves replaced by a mysterious system they don’t understand. Nola Gardner pools their severance pay to hire Dash Kent, freelance adventurer and apartment manager, to find out what happened. Dash discovers that the replacement switchboard is only one element of a plan concocted by an insane civil engineer: a plan so vast that it reaches from Retropolis to the Moon.
Genres: Sci Fi, Humor, Science Fiction Fantasy, Retro-style
Robots, Mad Scientist Armies, and More in this Adventure of the Century!!!
What this book does do, it does well.
First and foremost this book had heart. It was very clear that the author has a love and a passion for his work. The art included with the novel is top notch and he treats the subject matter with respect even when it’s humorous. His earnestness gave this book heart- which is something I cannot say for any of the ninety-or-so other books I’ve read so far this year.
The author’s narrative voice is actually funny. He’s not always turning jokes, nor are any of his characters ‘comic relief.’ Instead some of the characters have fairly witty comments, or clever observations from time to time which kept me engaged when my attention was drifting.
The setting was positively enchanting and hilarious. Retropolis is the city of the future, as seen by sci-fi writers of ages past. There are buckets of robots, ray-guns, personal rocketships and anti-gravity alloys. I particularly loved the mad scientist quarantine zone in the middle of Retropolis, which was basically an anarchic couple of blocks were a bunch of mad scientists were stretching the boundaries of known science while constantly trying to sabotage and outdo one another. Think the tv show ‘Eureka,’ but more wanton destruction.
But I almost didn’t finish this book.
The plot isn’t always well paced. I got bored. In particular it took me two months to read the first 130 pages or so. I returned it to the library and had to check it out again simply because I’d had it for too long. I had to skim large chunks to get through this.
The book seemed to be long for the sake of being long. It could have easily been three quarters or half the size that it actually wound up being. A good editor could have trimmed the fat of this novel. There were too many character POVs, and the author swapped between them erratically.
I personally found the main characters to (almost) all be dull. I know I’m being a stuck up book reviewer by asking for some antiheroes… but, damn it, I wanted some more character conflict! All the POV characters were just nice. The only characters I did like were the twins Evvie and Evan, and that was because they were hilariously selfish and self-absorbed.
This book was rough. I’m glad I took the time to read it for its heart was good and true, but this baby needed some serious editing before it was ready for prime time. I would strongly recommend this to someone who wants to read some innocent fun old-school style sci fi.
Don’t let my hesitant review get you down: in part I was simply not the target audience for this book. You might be the target, and you might like it.