Sunday, May 27, 2007

Simon Haynes's "Just Desserts"

Simon Haynes is the author of three Hal Spacejock novels, a number of articles on writing and publishing, and several short stories, one of which collected an Aurealis Award in 2001.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the latest Hal Spacejock novel, Just Desserts, and reported the following, starting with the text from page 99:
Hal and Clunk hurried along the Orbiter’s carpeted passageways, following overhead signs to the Luna Rose’s boarding gate. At every sign they passed Hal expected the status to change from ‘boarding’ to ‘departed’. At the gate his fears appeared to be confirmed — a thick red cord stretched across the airlock doorway and there was no sign of either staff or passengers. ‘Don’t tell me we’ve missed it.’

Clunk shook his head. ‘They’re probably cleaning up after the last run.’

‘Cleaning up?’

‘To be precise, hosing down. For the average traveller, space sickness and zero gravity aren’t the best combination.’

Hal winced.

‘On the plus side, there’ll be plenty of hot meals going around.’

There was a snick, and Hal saw a smartly dressed woman removing the red cord. ‘You cut it fine. We’re just leaving.’ She looked at them expectantly. ‘You are flying with us today?’

‘More than just flying.’ Hal gestured at Clunk. ‘He signed us on. We’re crew.’

The woman’s eyebrows rose, and Hal copped a double blast from her attractive green eyes. ‘Crew?’

‘Positions 14-69 and 24-T,’ said Clunk. ‘They were advertised on Cathua.’

- - -
As luck would have it this is the first page of chapter ten, and it features the major characters in one of their bantering conversations. Clunk is dispensing the kind of information he's good at, and as usual it's something Hal really didn't want to know. I enjoyed the twist in 'plenty of hot meals going around', even if the visual image is something that, like Hal, I'd rather not dwell on.

There are lots of misunderstandings in my books, and they often involve cutting Hal and/or Clunk down to size. Although they run their own spaceship they're often mistaken for gardeners, cleaners and mechanics, most likely because Clunk is a beaten up old robot and Hal insists on wearing a flight suit which has seen better days ... and which looks like a pair of overalls. On the plus side, their appearance allows them to impersonate gardeners, cleaners and mechanics from time to time.

The final gag is in the last line of dialogue. Positions 14-69 and 24-T: one for sixty-nine and two for tea.

I'm not happy about the two sequential sentences starting with AT though. That sometimes happens in editing when I cut out a line or two in between, and don't notice the two I've joined start or end the same way.

A couple of gags, some juvenile humour, a misunderstanding and a double-entendre: I'd say the snippet encapsulates the Hal books perfectly.
Check out Simon Haynes's website.

--Marshal Zeringue