GENRES: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Humor
AUDIENCE: YA and up
LENGTH: 194 pages
PUBLISHER: DeadPixel Publications
If you’ve read any of my recent articles here on Underground Book Reviews, you know I’m reluctant to hand out five star reviews. It feels too much like I'm inflating the scale. Four stars ought to make anyone happy. Heck, everyone should start with three and work their way outward depending on how bad or good their novel is. Okay, before I devolve into another dissertation on total quality principles versus inevitable graduated-scale inflation when applying management assessment methodology (deep breath), I'm just going to say I gave this novel five stars. Why? If my wife has to ask me to stop reading because my laughing is disturbing her Candy Crush game, congrats, your book just earned five stars. Scientific enough for you? Good. Because THE LAST VOLUNTEER made me laugh, and kept me laughing.
THE LAST VOLUNTEER is about reluctant heroes setting forth with one set of expectations, and stumbling into wildly unexpected outcomes. And that's pretty much what happens to the reader, too. Our hero, Bip, is a lovable loser trying to find what he's good at. We follow Bip's epic journey of self-discovery, which includes trying not to get eaten or setting himself on fire. At the end of this soul-wrenching journey, Bip has a startling insight...he really isn't good at anything. Not that any of that matters, he still has to save the world.
The novel opened with a spaceship in distress, and I felt sure I had landed squarely
in a sci-fi spoof. But Wetherell kept changing the rules on me. He wasn’t playing fair and staying in his genre box. In Volunteer, he takes a dash of science fiction, mashes it together with some fantasy tropes (which he mercilessly, and delightfully, abuses), and then mixes it together with designer jeans and some dryly hilarious British humor. His style echoes faintly of Douglas Adams, and will appeal to any Hitchhiker's or Python fan. However, Wetherell's voice and delivery are unique. I lived and breathed this kind of humor in my high school and college days, which brings me to my next point.
Nothing stood out in the novel as overly sexual or violent. Volunteer should be suitable for anyone twelve and up. If, by chance, your girlfriend laughs while reading this book, marry her.
If I had one gripe with the book, it’s how it ended. It’s part of a series and naturally leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied and wanting more. However, this can be quickly remedied by purchasing the next book.
Don't pick up The Last Volunteer with any preconceived notions and don't try to guess where it’s going. You'll just fail. Simply find a nice, quiet place to read it (preferably far away from any Candy Crush activity) and go along for the ride. Along the way, watch out
for the krakens, don't talk to the sea gulls, read the hieroglyphs before you drink, and, please, be nice to the harpies.
Buy The Last Volunteer on Amazon
Check out Steve Wetherell on DeadPixel.
Brian L. Braden is a UBR partner and assistant editor. His articles have been featured in a variety of defense magazines, websites, and books to include the
Military Times, Air Power Journal, and Oxford University Press. His debut novel, Black Sea Gods, is available on Amazon. The sequel, Tears of the Dead, is expected to be released later this year.