Tuesday, 14 April 2015


Steve Lyons Micronauts (2002)
I find it kind of depressing that for all the hypothetically good work I've undertaken in the expansion of my own literary horizons, reading Rabelais and Cervantes and Plato and all of those guys as signified by my intermittent sneering along the lines of this or that novel being significantly less sophisticated than the writings of Schopenhauer - despite that I've never actually read the writings of Schopenhauer; for all of this, all it apparently takes is for someone to write a novel about some toy I had as a kid, and I may as well be drooling in line for One Direction tickets.

As a rule I try to avoid tie-in novels on the grounds that they're probably mostly crap, and no-one has yet given me sufficient reason to care about whether or not this is an unnecessarily dismissive position to take. I've done my time. I read four-million Doctor Who novels, and there were a handful I might conceivably read again at some point; but on principal I would prefer to avoid any book that wishes it were a television show, a film, or - God forbid - a fucking console game. Whilst this may seem an unforgivably high-handed attitude, considering all the millions upon millions of books out there which you've never read, and may never find time to read even if you live to be two-hundred, why settle for something which secretly wishes it had been made in another medium? If you don't really enjoy books as books - I dunno - why bother reading at all? Just watch the fucking telly instead. Do what you like.

Nevertheless, here I am because I loved the absolute shit out of my Micronaut action figures and related toys when I was a kid, and because this was written by Steve Lyons. I seems to recall Steve Lyons having chugged out a couple of the better Doctor Who novels - at least amongst the aforementioned few I would consider re-reading at some point - as well as a couple of reasonably side-splitting volumes of something called The Completely Useless Encyclopedia. Sadly, lifting up the internet and having a look inside I notice Lyons has also written Sapphire & Steel audio dramas and novels based on something called Warhammer 40,000, which I assume to be one of those children's computer games, but never mind. Given that my previous review was of a Superman comic, I'm probably in no position to start getting sniffy on the grounds of Micronauts being a lesser work than Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung.

Mego's Micronaut toys were originally fictionalised as stars of their own Marvel comic by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden, and spectacularly so until Michael Golden stopped turning up and the title went somewhat down the toilet. Then someone revived the comic in 2002, or maybe before, probably with everyone drawn looking as though they need to take a shit and with at least one major character raped in him batty by his own dad in issue two, but I never saw the revived version; and then there was this, the first of a trilogy of novels.

The story carries some resemblance to that which appeared in the original Marvel run - specifically some teenager with a scientist father discovering a rift in the fabric of reality through which tiny Micronauts spew forth, followed by generic adventures of the kind involving rebel leaders and evil emperors. This version of the tale has the diminutive explorers from another universe arriving in the town of Angel's Gift, which capitalises on their tourist potential by featuring them as both carnival attraction and inspiration for a series of action figures. This goes some way towards smoothing over the discomfort of anyone who, like myself, feels a little self-conscious as a fully grown man reading a novel about toys I played with as a kid; some way, but maybe not all of the way.

'How? There'll be guards on the door—both sides!'

'The same way I got in here. The obvious way.' I look at him blankly, until he grins and says: 'Don't you have any story books on your world? In the fiction of my galaxy, buildings like this always, always have handy air-conditioning ducts!'

Oh yes. Here we are running down a corridor as though we were on some shit TV show whilst drawing attention to the fact of our running down a corridor. Ha ha.

You see, comedic asides pointing out clichés work better when the narrative doesn't keep on committing said clichés over and over, because this reduces the asides to an excuse for not bothering to tell a proper story.

The Harriers catch me, and I look up into Nova's face as she moves in, her energy wings flaring behind her. I haven't seen her up close before, and I'm surprised at how young she looks. Young and beautiful. Her eyebrows arc gracefully beneath her sprouting purple hair, and her slender nose has an attractive curve—but her eyes are cold, and a cruel sneer twists her pursed lips.

As opposed to an amiable or kindly sneer, I suppose, and young and beautiful is not in itself sufficient for a fucking sentence. I really wish people would stop doing that, splattering around fullstops regardless of syntax in the belief that the resulting pause - which would work just as well with an altogether more grammatical comma - gives whatever is said the gravity of an Orson Welles voice-over, when it actually furthers the impression that the author would rather be writing something other than a novel.

Ice cream fandango. Typewriter summer's day Charlie. Bob. Stegosaurus on heat. And Bob again.

Those aren't fucking sentences either.

To be fair, aside from all of the above, Steve Lyons does a decent job, such as it is. The story is told as a reasonably engaging first person present tense narrative, and there's plenty of evidence of Lyon's ability to hold a sentence together, and to write something which at least does more than simply help you to imagine what it would look like if it were on the telly. The problem is that Lyons' telling seems to be significantly superior to that which is told, which is roughly the usual story of a plucky teenager and tiny aliens running along corridors, and with the local mayor's greed drawing them all into a war which no-one can win, and no amount of references to it all feeling a bit like an episode of Quantum Leap can save the turd from toiletdom. This one really feels like a decent writer struggling to make good with a story he's been given by a committee.

Some of the background material is drawn from earlier comic book incarnations, which is in some way unfortunate because it means I had no idea who Azura Nova is supposed to be, and because it doesn't actually compare that well to the Mantlo and Golden version in which the bulk of clichés seemed better concealed and which was simply a more interesting tale, focussing as it did on the Micronauts and their universe rather than a generically plucky teenager who wishes his dad was less of a dick.

Yeah - I know, the Micronauts novel was probably aimed at teenagers or at least at the emotionally and developmentally teenage, but I still say it could have aimed just a little higher; and being as it didn't, it hasn't inspired me with any interest in reading the second or third part of the trilogy.

1 comment:

  1. I loved those toys when I was a kid, and the comic as well.