Unsolicited mail. It’s a modern nuisance, one of those small irritations that annoy us out of all proportion. Something needs to be done about it. People have to be stopped. Unless, that is, those people work in publishing and are sending unsolicited brilliance in the form of books. Then those people are benefactors whose generosity knows no bounds. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (in this instance) Nosy Crow.
Any book that demonstrates a love of words and plays around with them is definitely a book for me. I’m well-known for having a passion for words, the way they work together and the humour that can be generated from them. And David Solomons is clearly a kindred spirit. Unlike me, however, he is also able to use his words to create engrossing stories, memorable characters and subtle life lessons. I’ve read and enjoyed some of David’s earlier books so I started this one eagerly. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Gavin’s a loner who doesn’t really belong anywhere. Morning break and lunchtime find him sitting somewhere unobtrusive reading a book. And he likes it that way. At home, he tries to avoid the Tiny Horror who he is sure is inexorably taking his place. So when the new girl in his year (who happens to have moved in next door) starts acting like his shadow, he’s pretty irritated to say the least. Apart from anything else, Niki is seriously weird and indescribably arrogant. Add to that her ceaseless assertions that Gavin is the most ordinary, insignificant person she has ever met and you can see why he’s trying to avoid her.
It’s when the cat appears, though, that Gavin realises that this might be life, but not in any way that he knows it. The cat is also unlike any other feline of Gavin’s experience; it arrives in a space ship and talks to him. Even worse, it speaks only to threaten him. How, Gavin wonders, can any of this be true. And who really is Niki anyway? Rapidly, things take a turn for the downright peculiar and a talking, space-travelling cat vowing vengeance becomes the least of his worries. What Gavin discovers next stretches credibility almost to breaking point but somehow he is persuaded to go along with a plan to save the planet from the two most ruthless rulers of the galaxy – who just happen to be Niki’s actual parents.
Creating this kind of ridiculous storyline takes great skill, something David Solomons has in abundance. On the one hand, he has to set a scene and develop a story filled with characters we can relate to, whilst, on the other, he has to make us laugh at the utterly fantastical premise and plot. The fact that he is able to hold those two things in a balanced tension fills me with amazement and awe.