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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Rubens


Title: The Sheriff of Yrnameer
Author: Michael Rubens
Reviewed Format: hardcover
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Pages: 288

Yrnameer is the last of the “Your Name Heres”--planets that haven’t gotten corporate sponsors yet.  It’s pretty rare, so rare it’s become a myth.  Mentioning Yrnameer is a sure way to earn a laugh because it’s a well known probability that Yrnameer, if it exists, is in some remote location; even if you wanted to reach it, you couldn’t.

Lucky for Cole--space pirate extraordinaire--he’s just hijacked a spaceship on InvestCo3 with the coordinates for Yrnameer ready to program in and it’s his next destination.  Unfortunately, Cole has a few problems on his hands: Kenneth wants to lay his eggs in Cole’s eye, his new crew wants to kill him, and bending space to reach Yrnameer won’t be easy on a broken ship.



Michael Rubens has written a hilarious satire from a studied understanding of how society uses and depends on advertising.  Out of those depths comes a clever, witty, and uplifting story of survival and romance; action and hope; violence and zombie-turned corporate seminars.  It’s a book where the impossible becomes possible; humans can love aliens, Kenneth can survive pretty much anything Cole can throw at him, and it may just be Cole--the least likely candidate--who rises to the occasion and saves the day.

The humor in The Sheriff of Yrnameer evokes something of Douglas Adams--a bit of the ridiculous juxtaposed against a plot that, despite its meandering (most likely because of it), is an enjoyable journey through the best and worst of humanity.  Okay, maybe not that serious, but it is a lot of fun to read.  There’s so many tongue-in-cheek comments, you wonder if sometimes you didn’t skip past a few to get to the next point of dialogue.  For instance, there is a moment I almost missed where Cole sits in a room filled with “the faint radioactive glow coming from the commemorative chunk of Earth in its crystal cube, inscribed with the famous quote from the Administration.  AT LEAST WE GOT THE TERRORISTS, it said” (p. 24).  Just in case you were wondering what happened to Earth.

It seems almost no one is safe from Rubens’ sharp wit and keen eye for exploitation.  Artists suffer a small blow when a jail functions as an art installation, corporate employees turn into zombies, and if advertising were suddenly gone, we’d probably be just as stupefied and confused as Cole.  While the humor is strong and the jokes are punctuated by their unassuming deliveries, the characters are also dynamic enough to be believable.  If John Scalzi has taught me anything, it’s that a book can be fun and contemplative--Michael Rubens has definitely developed a talent for this, too.  I was even pleasantly surprised with how Rubens treated the romance between Cole and--well, I won’t spoil that for you.  Trust me, though, when I say that the unexpected is the norm and he doesn’t play into predictable conventions.  It’s part of the charm of the novel.  It’s also one of the many, many benefits to reading this, alongside calorie loss induced from laughter and an increased rate of concentration from Rubens’ gripping prose (really, I’m not lying--you won’t want to put this book down).

One of my favorite characters was Joshua.  Joshua undergoes an alarming transformation throughout the course of the novel--a funny example of what exposure to guns, violence, and a not-so-reliable mentor can do to a young, sheltered, impressionable boy.  From the moment you meet Joshua to the point where you first realize hey, he’s not so sweetly innocent anymore, is something of an eye-opener to Rubens’ talent for comedic timing and character development.  Nora was another favorite, mostly because she’s a great foil for Cole and, like everyone else, has fun watching him make a fool of himself and has no problem pointing it out in the most embarrassing and sarcastic ways.

I’m incredibly lucky to have read this book.  I feel bad for saying it, but until Suvudu’s Holiday Extravaganza Sweepstakes (ok--until I won this book as one of the prize packs and it showed up on my doorstep), I’d never heard of Michael Rubens, much less his book, The Sheriff of Yrnameer.  Clearly I’m not hanging around in the right circles.  If it’s obscure, it shouldn’t be because really, a book with this many nods to “Star Wars,” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and 2001: A Space Odyssey--among others--deserves a spot on your shelf next to all of those.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer isn’t for everyone.  The humor alone eliminates readers with other, more narrow tastes (or is this humor the narrowly defined type?).  You should also not expect a terrible amount of world-building.  Rubens tosses his readers into the story in media res and you either swim along with the tide or get lost and drown.  There’s a lot the reader has to pick up and buy into.  The novel hinges on your ability to believe in the ridiculous and believe in it quickly.  I think this book deserves to be read by more people--it’s a great gem as long as you don’t expect to read something too serious.  It came to me at a difficult time in my life recently.  When our kitty was sick and cozied up to my lap for the last time to read with me, it was with this book.  It should be noted she approved, albeit the page turns at times made her jump.  I might have been a bit too enthusiastic to progress into the narrative, but it helped distract me and cheer me up intermittently in the days leading up to and those that followed her sudden death.  The Sheriff of Yrnameer will always have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf.

It’s worth the read.  Don’t pass it up!  Thanks Suvudu, and thank you, Michael Rubens (who, in addition to writing a fun book, sent me a kind private message on GoodReads mentioning how nice it was to know that Jawas read, too.  Yes they do, Michael Rubens.  Yes they do).

*Just as a side note, the postcard that came with the prize pack is something I hope comes with every purchase at Suvudu.  Not only does it come with a discount code, but it’s hilarious.  Talk about good advertising!

How many Jawas recommend this book?


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