Books to Binge: All Aliens Like Burgers by Ruth Wheeler

I always feel weird at Croatian conventions, which tend to nurture an intimate and immediate atmosphere, if I have read nothing written by the literary Guest of Honour. It used to be so much easier, though, to binge read an author a decade ago than today. To get around that within my quite insane schedule, I did not read All Aliens Like Burgers. I listened to it.

The audio book lasts just under seven hours and the Easter long weekend weather in Croatia was warm, sunny and made to be lying on blankets in parks, listening to a light, science fictional romp while the offspring got really tired by playing outside.

All Aliens Like Burgers was pleasant, and fun to listen to on a lazy afternoon or three. Having spent some time training and onboarding young people at their first jobs in the last few years, I did not expect that reading the adventures of a young Englishman at his first job would be appealing at all, even in an SF setting.

I did make the mistake of seeing people compare the novel to Douglas Adams’ “The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, so in the first half an hour of listening, I was really disappointed. To me, it was nothing like the quirky play I have adored for half my life. Then I remembered how unlikely I would ever think anything, ever, being like the stories I love so much I re-read and re-listen them obsessively and dropped my expectations in order to give Wheeler another chance.

The novel proved solidly written, with good, lively dialogue, decent worldbuilding and a plot that moves nicely enough, if a bit slowly,  at times. All the details I expect other people to have loved – Spotoon, the pheromones barmaid, the main character’s everyman characteristics – were nice and quirky but nowhere near the hilarious and awesome experience I get listening to Hitchhiker.

Granted, Tom as the protagonist does not get surprised, shocked or even phased about his alien employers, the strange world and customs that he finds himself surrounded with at work, but muddles through with a steadiness that I found truly alien, rather than the actual aliens of the book. (I did find it funny that he seemed to feel more wonder at his parents than at the aliens.)

My I like it, I like it not feeling might be due to the audio. While I loved the narrator’s accent and voice while narrating, I really found it unpleasant when she did character voices (too thin and too high and too non-distinct for my taste). In combination with a lot of descriptive passages of characters doing stuff which I as a reader really did not need to know, it resulted in my attention wandering occasionally while listening.

Even so, I came away with an upbeat feeling from the novel. The burger place Tom works at and learns about being an adult is Truxxe, a planetoid located some place between Triangulum and Andromeda, and a place that might grow on me yet. I found Wheeler’s writing competent enough as well as imaginative enough to give her a chance sometime in the future with another title.

I am really looking forward to meeting Ruth today at Istrakon.



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