Small World, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated by Rick Griffin – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Small World, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated by Rick Griffin.
Lansing, MI, Thurston Howl Publications, April 2018, trade paperback, $11.99 (301 [+ 1] pages).
Small World is Luterman’s The Kanti Cycle, Book 2. Book 1 is Skeleton Crew. Luterman says here that The Kanti Cycle is a trilogy, to be completed in Book 3, Fair Trade.
Skeleton Crew seemed to end with a definite conclusion, but Small World continues the plot in a new direction.
Skeleton Crew is set on the generation exploratory starship White Flower II, populated entirely by 10,000 furry geroo and one giant dragonlike krakun, Commissioner Sarsuk. The protagonist is Kanti, one of the geroo.
400 years ago, the krakun came to the overpopulated primitive world Gerootec and offered to hire thousands of geroo as their starship crews. The geroo who went into space and their descendants would never see Gerootec again, but they would live in luxury compared to the backward geroo on their homeworld. After 400 years, the geroo are asking if the krakun are their employers or their slavemasters. The White Flower II would be a paradise for the geroo, if it weren’t for the krakun’s cruelly arbitrary representative, Commissioner Sarsuk. It doesn’t help that Commissioner Sarsuk openly refers to them as slaves. In Skeleton Crew, matters build to a flash point, but Kanti, a lowly deckhand, maneuvers Sarsuk into seriously injuring himself before he can slaughter any geroo. The Kanti Cycle, Book 1 ends with Sarsuk returning to the krakun homeworld to recuperate, leaving the geroo on the White Flower II in peace — for awhile.
Small World begins with Sarsuk returning to the starship. He’s not happy, and he’s going to make as many people suffer as he can.
“‘On my shuttle you will find a cage. Fill it.’ Commissioner Sarsuk clipped his strand back onto his necklace. ‘I know that you love to agonize over choices, trying to make the perfect decision. So in the infinite compassion that I have for you –’ He rolled his eyes. ‘—I am giving you some extra time.’
‘Fill … a cage …’ the captain said quietly. ‘With?’
Sarsuk crossed his arms and leaned on his elbows so he could comfortably lower his face down to Ateri’s level. ‘You’re smart. At least you always act that way. What do you think? What’s the one thing on board this ship that has any utility at all?’
‘Fifty slaves should do, Ateri,’ Sarsuk said. ‘I had a ringel cleaning crew previously, but I can’t see any reason to buy more of them. Fifty geroo would be a nice perk considering how much I’ve had to endure for the company recently,’ he added, his eyes filling with self-pity.” (pgs. 4-5)
The blurb summarizes the setup: “The commissioner accidentally let his last cleaning crew starve to death, so now Kanti and forty-nine of his teammates will have to spend the rest of their lives living in a one room barracks with only a single airlock protecting them all from the planet’s poisonous atmosphere.”
Kanti and forty-nine fellow geroo are taken from their vast starship and brought to Commissioner Sarsuk’s home on Krakuntec to become the permanent cleaning crew for his apartment. The huge krakuns’ planet has a corrosively sulfurous atmosphere that would be instantly fatal to other species, so they are given one room of the apartment with their own atmosphere to live in. Theoretically, anyhow.
“Kanti studied the display next to the airlock. ‘The interior status is in the blue,’ he said.
‘So it’s safe for us to go in,’ Saquel proclaimed.
‘Not so fast,’ Kanti said, grabbing Saquel’s arm. ‘The air is safe for someone to breathe, but not necessarily geroo.’
The big male turned to face him, looming over the scruffy, junior engineer. ‘What are you saying?’
‘Well, what species did the commissioner use as his last cleaning crew?’ The other three shrugged. ‘We should presume that the systems haven’t been configured for geroo yet. Just look at the text on this display – it’s not geroo or krakun. I can’t read any of this. This blue indicator means that it’s safe for them to breathe, but what about us?’” (p. 75)
They are expected to emerge in sealed environment suits at night when the Commissioner is asleep, to clean his huge home – for the rest of their lives.
“‘Practicality is important,’ said Kanti. ‘It’s not hard to imagine what would happen fifty years from now if the air processor breaks down and no one knows how to fix it. But I think we need to preserve our culture too. What if, in a few generations, no one even remembers that we used to live on a star ship? That we still have cousins out there, somewhere, traveling between the stars? What’s the value in our continued existence, if we lose everything we once had?’” (p. 255)
Of course, things get more complicated than that. But as with Skeleton Crew, it’s impossible to go into more detail without giving away major spoilers. Life for Kanti becomes even more dangerous than he expects, with an unexpected menace within the geroo crew itself, and unknown allies – maybe – that nobody knows about.
“He closed his eyes, his head drooping. ‘Tasty Frooties, Tasty Frooties,’ he whispered idly. It sounded so familiar, like something that the commissioner bought.
His eyes popped open, as the realization hit him. He was inside a plastic bag. He had dragged giant, discarded bags like this one to the recycler chute – clear, plastic bags that Sarsuk had tossed to the floor after he had eaten all of his Tasty Frooties.
‘Hello?’ Kanti rasped again. ‘Why am I in a plastic bag?’” (p. 282)
Unlike Skeleton Crew, Small World does end on a cliffhanger. It is actually the first half of a single novel. The last half is The Kanti Cycle, Book 3, Fair Trade, coming soon.
Small World (cover by Rick Griffin) is hard-science s-f; it’s a tense mystery; and it’s furry and scaly — and more. It has unexpected surprises every few pages. Get it.
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