The Chronicles of Henry Harper
Henry Harper is first and foremost an engineer – as well an adventurer and an unintentional story-teller. From humanity’s first fast-then-light drive, he’s been aboard the ships and behind the scenes (and the floor panels) at any number of the most crucial moments of the history of space exploration. From first contacts with new species to rescued royalty, his life has spanned the galaxy, and his collection of friends in useful places is essentially unmatchable. When he was finally sweet-talked into sharing some of his stories, he wasn’t expecting the level of interest they attracted – or the fan mail.
The Chronicles of Henry Harper offers an unusual structural twist, in that the book is presented as a series of short memoirs presented by Henry Harper, each prefaced with an in-character except. Given that I’m not particularly keen on short stories, and have virtually no sense of humour, I admit that I approached this book with a certain amount of wariness. I’m happy to say that my apprehension was completely misplaced on both counts. The structure was extremely well-handled, and the stories were, in places, laugh-out-loud funny.
Henry makes a great protagonist, and both the crises he faces and the solutions he comes up with are original and imaginative, making the pacing excellent throughout. The wide range of species and cultures the book includes made for a series of great backdrops, although many of the aliens’ reactions were essentially human, which was one of the very few things I found to be a weakness in the book. I felt that given so many species, more use could have been made of the differences between them. This was a fun, funny read, light-hearted and well-written – certainly worth recommending to all the sci-fi fans out there.