Worlds Apart
Chuck McKenzie

This review appeared in Altair issue 4.

Cover 'Worlds Apart' is the debut novel of Victorian author Chuck McKenzie. It is a comic SF novel set in the comparatively near future of the 22nd century. Interplanetary travel is common and interstellar travel has just become possible. Augmented human cloning has been achieved and AIs of every sort abound.

Zach Reginald Vance is the principle character. He was a mega-star entertainer adored by millions, but is a has-been looking for a way back to fame, money and glory when the book opens. It is because he is trying to make a comeback that he accepted the opportunity to be guest of honour at the official launch of the Aeschylus, the first interstellar ship using wormholes.

Everything at the launch is going smoothly until an alien arrives. It is a scout from the gestalt entity known as the Hive. The Hive is based at Polaris and has highly developed organic technology. Being a gestalt entity it lacks certain understandings which people take for granted. This leads to a few problems with it's first encounter with humanity.

All but four people aboard the Aeschylus are killed. The survivors are Zach; Susan Trenine, the ships medical officer; Chet Newman, a vidnews cameraman; and Herb, the sentient African Violet that controls the ship.

The sudden death of everyone aboard the ship puts a bit of a crimp on the planned celebrity launch and makes Zach wish he hadn't flushed his stash of tobacco down the loo.

To say more than this about events in the book would give away the plot. There are lots of twists and another pivotal character who hasn't been mentioned. You'll need to read the book to work out who the 'frott' this is.

The biggest disappointment of the book is right at the end. The two page epilogue is a transparent attempt to build the readers interest in a sequel. Everything is tied up and finished, as much as anything in life is ever finished, until the epilogue. The epilogue sets up a whole new plot and sequence of events that aren't even hinted at anywhere else in the book. This was very annoying.

The book has an unusual structure, in that between every chapter there is a brief 'Interlude'. It is in these interludes that the reader finds out about all the interesting events and discoveries that have happened to humanity during the years between now and when the book starts.

Worlds Apart is comic SF. The closest comparison to the style of humour in the book is the 'Myth' series by comic fantasist Robert Asprin. Those who are titillated by Robert's tales will find much to amuse them in Chuck McKenzie's novel.