The next indie novel I’m reviewing here is Stupid Humans, by Vivian Cummings (using the pen name V.R. Craft). This is primarily a science fiction novel with strong overtones of satire and social critique. The setting is sometime hundreds or thousands of years in the future, on a space station on the opposite side of a wormhole that has opened hear Earth. Despite the exotic location, the author carefully and cleverly included many familiar aspect of the real and present world, with a focus on the more obnoxious and, well, stupid aspects.
In this book’s backstory, the most intelligent humans on Earth fled the planet millennia ago in an event the rest of the world knew as the sinking of Atlantis. They established a spacefaring civilization and named themselves the People, in contrast to the stupid Humans who they left behind on Earth. The passage of time led to somewhat divergent evolution between the People and the Humans (for example, the People developed tails), and the People saw themselves as in every way superior to the Humans they’d left behind. The novel kicks off some years after a wormhole opens between Earth and the space station Five Alpha, where several thousand People live. The unexpected first contact leads to distrust, fear, political wrangling, business opportunities, and a war which the People’s public relations officials struggle to avoid calling a war. In this conflict we have doctors and politicians and beer moguls and regular Joes of both the Humans and the People all trying to find an unlikely stability.
The writing is very good, the pacing was good, and I thought the story overall was very clever and original. It had many familiar elements to it (in some ways it seemed to take the concept behind the movie Idiocracy and invert the premise) but was very fresh as an independent sci-fi work. There were some small typos throughout the story, but they weren’t concentrated anywhere and they weren’t enough to be distracting. The characters were complex, the dialogue and interactions were quite believable, and there were several legitimately funny bits of comedy throughout the novel.
There was one area where the book had some weakness though. It had quite a lot of characters who were difficult to keep track of, and the character who fell into the protagonist’s role is deliberately mysterious about her motives and backstory. I’m referring to Samantha, a Human bartender and reporter who ends up on Five Alpha and is subject to scrutiny by People who are suspicious of her desire to stay on the station. The question of her motive isn’t answered until the very end of the book, and this crucial aspect of Samantha’s personality prevents the reader from developing a very strong connection with the character.
That being said, Stupid Humans is an intelligent and high-quality work of science fiction, a caliber above many other sci-fi novels that I’ve read. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the genre, and to fans of humor and satire.
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This post was originally featured on cwbookclub.com.