Science fiction is a venerable genre with roots that go back hundreds of years but whose modern form began, according to most authorities, in 1926, when Hugo Gernsback published Amazing Stories, the first American sci-fi magazine. Humorous science fiction is somewhat younger. Douglas Adams practically invented the genre with his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and John Scalzi, Jasper Fforde, and David Wong are other modern masters. With its opening paragraph–“In the beginning, was this universe. It was uniform and conformed to the laws of itself. Thus being law-abiding, it was kin to all other universes: unexceptional, and therefore not meriting a pay increase.”–R.M. Kozan’s THE VOYAGES OF RALF announces that it, too, belongs in the conversation.
The book centers on Ralf, an intern on the star ship Enterprise–I mean, Nosferatu. The year is 1969 S.R., or Since Reset, a cataclysmic solar storm that wiped all electronic data. Mars runs things from atop a mysterious galactic polity called the United Federation of Planets–I mean, the Triang-Dromed-Way Alliance. Ralf is a member of Starfleet–I mean, Star Corps. He’s smart but irreverent, daring but reckless, making him the perfect protagonist for a thrilling adventure of self-discovery.
As hinted above, the book will be familiar to Star Trek fans since it trades in the same tropes: space travel, aliens, captain’s logs, and conflict between Klingons and humans–or, in this case Martians and Terrans. Kozan ratchets up the hilarity with a few of his own inventions: the Supreme Purple Worm, “ugly” being a swear word, and a deity called Aron, aka Celestial Acceptor of Late Fees and All-Mighty Guarantor of Authenticity. Star Trek was, and is, a political allegory, addressing issues such as racism, economic disparity, and military hegemony. In other words, it was more than Spandexed heroes shooting Laser (an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) Tag props at Fangoria centerfolds. Ralf’s odyssey lacks this dimension, being pretty much what it seems to be: a cool story full of action, other worlds, and Kozan’s dry wit. In an America where war between worlds couldn’t make conditions worse, this isn’t a bad thing to be at all.
Trading on science fiction’s most-established themes, R.M. Kozan’s THE VOYAGES OF RALF makes up in thrills and comic brilliance what it lacks in originality.
~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader