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Andy Secombe

Tor UK / Pan Macmillan

UK Trade Paperback

ISBN 1-405-00484-3

Publication Date: 03-01-2003

277 Pages; £10.99

Date Reviewed: 03-13-03 

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, General Fiction

Silly books are a necessity of reading life. There's only so much meaning any reader can handle. Something's required to leaven the heavy load of understanding the lives of all the characters in all those books. British writers are particularly good at silly, and there's a firmly established tradition that goes back to Doctor Who, hits the bestseller lists with Who writer Douglas Adams, and continues to the present with the Unstoppable Force of Terry Pratchett and the work of Neil Gaiman. Yes, it's a crowded field, but apparently there's always room for newcomers. Straight out of nowhere comes 'Limbo' by Andy Secombe, best known thus far for his part as Watto in the recent 'Star Wars' movies. 'Limbo' is his first novel and in tradition of first novels, he's put quite a bit in there. As I read this novel, I kept waiting for The Kitchen Sink to show up. It never made an appearance, but there's always room in the Secombe's next novel. Even without The Kitchen Sink, 'Limbo' manages to be a mildly amusing but surprisingly fun read. I whipped through it much faster than I ever expected, and enjoyed it immensely.

'Limbo' is literally all over the place. It starts out as a fantasy, then heads into silly British seaside humor, then into wacky science fiction. It's got monsters, dragons, garbage-eating giant clams, spaceships and the traditional rift in time and space itself. With all this going on, it does take Secombe a while to find his footing. As the novel begins we're introduced to a number of characters and it seems as if it takes the author a while to decide who the readers are supposed to care about. He eventually figures that out, but by then a significant part of the narrative has whizzed by. It leaves the readers feeling as if they've run into a gymnasium with a grease-coated floor.

That being the case, at least in the interim, we're treated to a number of entertaining scenes and decent grinners, those jokes that don't get a laugh, really, but amuse in a quiet and enjoyable fashion. Secombe is nothing if not consistent in his manic search to cover every subject in the known universe. His narrative gets a head of steam and it never lets up. Once he figures out who the main characters are, he does a very nice job at letting the readers get to know and care about them. He displays that most important of authorial traits, a genuine liking of all the things he creates. Wizards, spacewomen, monsters, kings, shop-owners, even porcine policemen get treated as warmly as if they're members of the family showing up for a cake and spot of tea.

Readers can give Secombe points for fearlessly mixmastering anything that comes into his purview. 'Limbo' drops elements of fantasy, SF, and British humor from all over the map and seamlessly segues them into a coherent narrative. The best point of comparison here is Doctor Who. Readers who enjoyed the televised exploits of SF's longest running television show are bound to enjoy 'Limbo'. It's both silly and smart in the way the best Who episodes were, but Secombe establishes his own unique voice surely enough that it doesn't strike one as derivative.

Prose is vitally important to the silly British SF genre, and Secombe is clearly up to the task. This book goes down a treat. It slips by the reader without any effort on the reader's part. It practically reads itself. Secombe aims for a consistently fun level of humor, and the consistency is clearly part of the novel's appeal. Though the universe itself might be threatened in the narrative Secombe knows that this is no novel to end the universe. Instead, it's a very pleasant way to pass the day reading on the beach at Hove. Of course, having read 'Limbo', Hove might not be the reader's first choice for a vacation spot, what with all the dragons, monsters and giant garbage-eating clams. But if you've already booked your holiday, then Secombe's already written your book.