Magically cheesy!

In case you couldn’t tell, I really enjoy rummaging through the sci-fi sections of thrift stores and used book shops. You’d be surprised, though, how seldom I get funny looks from cashiers. Occasionally I wonder, Are these book covers actually even that weird? Is it normal for people to come to the counter with books apparently about warrior mages downing sixers in dirty 1970s kitchens? A simple raised eyebrow would suffice to assure me that these books are objectively cheesy, but I never get one — except for one of today’s selections, which actually garnered a cashier double take! Can you guess which one?

There’s no time to give you a hint; we’ve got a lot of material to cover. Ha?



utopia-huntersFrom the look of its cover, Utopia Hunters is just another story about a couple of jerks who ride around on the back of a flying mountain lion-manta ray hybrid. Oh, and at least one of them wears a cape. That’s how you can tell they’re jerks.

So these jerks on their manta lion (mountain ray?) are flying around a palace. I don’t know who designed this palace, but whoever they were, I know they liked East Asian architecture. And dominoes. Now, on one hand, a domino motif gives the palace a seriously distinct aesthetic. On the other hand, that aesthetic is best described as “looking like something your grandpa spent his afternoons gluing together after they shut down the plant.”

I suppose it’s possible that the dots are Braille. That would imply the existence of a blind giant somewhere in the neighborhood, and I suppose the message would be “Please do not crush this palace.” That’s better than the domino explanation, right? I hope so, because the only other thing I can make of the dots is a giant old-school computer punch card, which is a rather inane thing to fold into a palace.

Apparently, this is how 'please do not crush this palace' looks in Braille. You're welcome?

Another thing I know about the architects of this building is that they completely sucked ass at geology. Yes, a palace built on a scraggly butte looks dramatic and cool, but it’s wagering its existence on a game of erosional Jenga.

Oh, shoot — I forgot to mention that Castle Domino is surrounded by several rainbows that form perfect rings in exactly the manner normal rainbows don’t. (Clearly, this palace is the place to be if you’re a gay dominoes enthusiast.) The rainbows are mostly green, yellow, and red, just like the flag of Mali, and I can only assume they act as some kind of protective barrier. Please don’t hate me when I suggest that this place is Mali-ring-walled.

On a side note, I’d like to pose a few questions about utopia hunting. What does utopia taste like? Is it gamy? If you find a utopia, what do you bring it down with? Do you use something as straightforward as a rifle, or do you have to expose it to corruption and inequality? Do utopia hunters use decoys, luring other utopias in by putting out copies of Brave New World? Do they mask their scent with utopia urine? What the hell is utopia urine?

For providing such an interesting mix of corniness and absurdity, I give the cover of Utopia Hunters 3 utopia steaks and 1 flag of Mali.


world-swappersNext, we have The World Swappers, which is basically Starwolf for hippies. What you’ve got here is an ice planet, or at least an icy part of a planet. That’s great. You also have a giant ice sculpture of a woman’s head, complete with pointy bits of ice that sometimes show up in my ice cube tray. Someone put lots of mascara on this ice lady, I guess because they want her to look slutty for all the ice sculpture guys. Her clock is ticking, after all. Oh, and her collar is popped, because even sculpted ice women can be douchebags out clubbin’.

Hanging out in the void of space beneath the ice planet (which showcases the little green exfoliating beads in this great big body wash we call the universe), we see two hands holding small, electrified bowling balls. Or maybe they’re supposed to be icicle-encrusted bowling balls. Whatever the story is “supposed” to be, there’s really no getting around the fact that these are really just ice woman breasts being fondled by Space Frankenstein. Gotta say, I’d watch that movie.

The best part of this cover, however, is clearly the snow patrol hanging out in front of Icy McBowlingballboobs. These guys are cold. In fact, they’ve been frozen in place for quite a while – notice that there are no footprints leading to their current locations. The two guys nearest us manage to wave to each other like a couple of suburban neighbors doing yardwork, while the guy in the back has completely frozen solid. Maybe they could’ve made it back to camp if they hadn’t been carrying 5-foot-long guns.

I love how those guys don’t even seem to notice the ice woman; it tells me that the planet is just littered with ridiculous ice sculptures the same way Canada is littered with Tim Hortons. Tim Hortonses? I dunno. All I can tell you is that, if you’re looking for a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich, you should stop in at your nearest gaudy ice sculpture.


Adding in spaceships Batman would fly, I’m ready to give The World Swappers a grade of 3 groping Space Frankensteins. Or, if you’re a stickler, 3 groping Space Frankenstein’s Monsters.

Too bad this is the closest I could find.


earthmans-burdenOn to Earthman’s Burden, which, as the name implies, is about teddy bears picking out Halloween costumes. In space.

Or maybe it’s just one teddy bear, long since abondoned by its owner, who has gone mad from loneliness and now fills the void by imagining itself as various stock fictional characters. In space.


But wait a minute – see that spaceship hovering above the planet? Did you notice that it doesn’t have any wings? Without wings, how is it supposed to achieve a safe landing in an atmosphere? I’ll go ahead and tell you right now: it isn’t. It’s not a spaceship; it’s a nuclear missile, manned by a single kamikaze pilot and launched during an interplanetary war that came to an end before the missile reached its target. With the declaration of peace came an immediate override of the missile’s objective, bringing its progress to a halt and leaving it to orbit the planet permanently.

This is a good thing for everybody except that kamikaze pilot, who expected and accepted death, but was never prepared to face being trapped in space. And, you see, this pilot has no hope of escape, because it is merely the brain of a terminally wounded soldier transplanted into the missile’s guidance computer to ensure delivery of the payload.

On paper, it was a good deal for everybody; the soldier got to retain sentience a little longer, and the military added an intelligent failsafe to its warhead. But for such a failsafe to be effective, the master computer at headquarters would have to ignore any signals of the “hey, save my life” variety from the pilot-brain-computer, lest the latter try to escape its fate and live on as a man-machine. But as far as the master computer is concerned, the only life-support objective for the pilot-brain is that it stay alive until detonation (which will never happen).

Imprisoned in a machine forgotten because it will never fulfill its purpose, the pilot-brain has given up on sending distress signals back to HQ, and has begun to think that it may, in fact, have died, and is now stuck in a particularly boring hell. Its only respite is to regress to happier times, such as childhood. It remembers its teddy bear. It fuses that bear with remembered stories about pipe-smoking detectives, one-eyed pirates, musketeers, and constables.

ranger-bearWhen it recalls stories of spacefaring warriors, it shudders from the familiarity and forces in such silly elements as a uniform with pastel highlights and a conspicuous lack of any kind of breathing apparatus. And a damn cape, because the pilot-brain is a jerk.

Rattled by the space-warrior memory, the pilot-brain’s recollected stories mutate; suddenly cowboys hold invisible submachine guns while riding rejected dinosaur prototypes in front of the moon.

From there, the delusions trail off, and we arrive again at the title, this time with comprehension. Earthman’s burden indeed, for the brain that is so haunted by these desperate hallucinations is the brain of an Earthling!

Since the pilot-brain could very well be a woman’s brain, and thus a woman that has several personalities that are all bears, I give the cover of Earthman’s Burden 1 Donna the Bears. However, since that whole idea was purely mine, and the book is probably just about some jackass teddy bears, I’m adjusting the rating to 1 the Bears (hold the Donna).

More reviewsHome