February The Fifth
Author Derek Haines
In a remarkable turn of events, a young man with a lot definitely not going for him, somehow manages to come to terms with a startling reality. He has to grow up. Being handicapped by not only having rather nasty acne and an odd eye impediment, he also has to suffer the fact that his name is February. Or at best, Feb to his very limited number of friends. While not at all wishing to rush into this startling new reality, circumstances and a few elbow nudges from his very protective elder sister ensure that his ‘not at all wishing’ turns out to be a complete waste of time. Thrust totally and altogether unwillingly into a position of authority by early afternoon, February finds himself with a new appendage tacked on to the end his name. The Fifth. The new and very authoritative part of his name. Of course, as is the case in all such rapid and thrusting types of promotion to positions of power, there will be those who are not happy about it. In February’s case however, he finds that in fact these those amount to just about everyone apart from his three sisters. Undaunted by this reality, Feb accepts his new responsibility and by early evening sets about getting himself into a real tangle. His only true achievement being that he discovers that quite a few of these those who weren’t so happy, are in fact really very upset about the whole Fifth appendage deal. By bedtime, he thinks he is in trouble. Before lunchtime the next day, he is sure.
Review: What happens when a privileged son too low in the royal family line to be important but nonetheless still a royal, finds himself thrust towards responsibility? He goes on a galactic journey to discover where he comes from, who he is, and what he must do to become the man to lead. You ask how does an acne-faced, body odor plagued, lazy-eyed kid manage this enormous task? With the help of lizard pilots, three wise sisters, and a few other misfits tossed in for good measure. Feb, as he is called by his friends, travels the galaxy to find his way back to the beginning, literally, his family's beginning. Along the way there is lots of eating and time for three-handed Canasta with a small side of romance, but only for his sisters. Feb's got bigger things to worry about like governmental over-throws and civil unrest. This comedic sci-fi tale touches on themes of power, origins, privilege, morality and even cleverly makes use of historical details (a bonus in my department). It plays with language which establishes a unique tone and style. Moments remind me of what it might be like if Dr. Seuss wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I mean this as a compliment (in case you were wondering). It's simplicity makes it complex. For example, the bluest of the blue and the blackest of the black. There are times when writers try too hard to describe something: a color, the weather or a feeling. Sometimes, it is just blue, deep blue, royal blue or the bluest of the blues. I laughed, had fun, remembered all the characters because of their crazy names and even thought about how the author invented them -- most importantly, I think I learned something! And by the way, if you ever find yourself visiting Erde, I recommend the salmon and when in Rom, well, eat the pasta!