Each of my teammates in the second annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC2) have evaluated their initial allotment and have made their recommendations for the quarterfinals, which consist in our collective top eight of the 28 books in our team’s slush pile. Four of those eight quarterfinalists had been in my scouting allotment, so I personally had four new quarterfinalists to read. The only one of those to receive scores of at least 8/10 from both of its initial readers? The Audacity by Carmen Loup.
The Audacity opens with a shoutout to Douglas Adams, just so that there’s no doubt about what kind of story to expect, and then plunges in with an alien watching I Love Lucy and hundreds of AMC Gremlins falling from the sky. Yes, this will be a silly space opera. But despite not being overly concerned with everything being logical, The Audacity does have something of a plot, with two kidnapped Earthlings finding themselves thrown in with a pair of aliens who—for different reasons—seek to prevent a Chaos goddess from making Earth her personal plaything.
While there are several perspective characters, this is really May’s story. She teams up with the I Love Lucy-watching alien–Xan, who joins her on the book’s cover–and sets off for adventure…or at least for racing rockets and watching movies and possibly trying to find a job. The rest pop in periodically for humorous exchanges and reminding the reader they exist before their return to plot-relevance in the climax. And while the side characters are mostly flat, the story balances the jokes and general silliness with enough pathos to draw the reader to the main pair.
Of course, there is no shortage of silliness—if the Adams name-check and the Gremlins didn’t convince you, Xan’s rocket has a black hole in the basement (and for that matter is fueled by coffee), and the fourth wall is so broken it may as well not exist—but it’s not quite funny enough to propel the story entirely on humor. I found myself chuckling many times over the course of the narrative, but I also found myself wondering why we were bothering to hear about the side characters at all.
Fortunately, May is largely endearing enough to carry the story between the jokes. She’s affable and curious, with enough sense of adventure to drive the plot forward but enough worries—will she be evicted from her apartment when she returns to Earth? Is her alien companion trying to get in her pants?—that the adventure-loving piece doesn’t come on too strong. She may not have the most depth in the genre, but this isn’t a character study; she doesn’t need to be an all-timer, she needs to be interesting enough that the audience wants to read more about her. And in that regard, she’s successful, especially in the mundane moments. Neither the big finish nor the advertised rocket-racing wowed, but interludes like “that time May tried to catch up on years of maintenance while Xan was at work” were absolutely delightful.
Overall, The Audacity shows some real flashes of brilliance that make it easy to see why two of my teammates have rated it so highly. It’s consistently amusing, and the day-to-day hijinks of May and Xan are pretty darn lovable. But I saw the whole as more of a mixed bag, with my interest dropping when we left the main pair, and with the story’s biggest moments failing to capture the magic of the ordinary ones. It won’t be my pick to top the group, but there’s still plenty to recommend, and there are a fair few readers out there who I expect to adore this lighthearted space romp.
Recommended if you like: silly/comic/queer space operas.
Can I use it for Bingo? It’s hard mode for Self-Published, as well as being Set in Space, with a Revolution or Rebellion and a fair helping of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff.
Overall rating: 13 of Tar Vol’s 20. Three stars on Goodreads.
SPSFC Score: My personal score is 6.5/10. The official team score will be decided in concert with my teammates.