“Black Swan Planet” is a unique, interesting, and entertaining take on the satirical science fiction genre. The book is written by James Peters and the audiobook edition is very well narrated by David Swanson. Let me say that it was the cover art, consisting of a chimpanzee in an astronaut suit, that drew me to listen to this book; and I’m glad I did. I like satire and I like science fiction, so it only makes sense that I would enjoy this book, but I almost did not. If you enjoy books like “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, you may find this book to your liking. The most difficult part is getting past the first few chapters, and once you do, you will be rewarded with an amazing journey. Once completed, you will forget the early parts and almost believe that you finished a different book entirely. Yes, this book is a gem hidden in some rather hard stone. But once inside, you will not be disappointed.
Satire is often a very fine line and it is not something that is easy to pull off. In some ways it is even more difficult in the science fiction genre because of its readers loyalty. Most either hate satire or they love it. It makes me think of the many satire movies such as Blazing Saddles or Airplane! At times this book’s satire felt over the top, but that was mostly early on during the story setup. While listening to the first few chapters of the audiobook, I nearly set it aside as the story seemed to be obsessively focused around crude humor, drug use, sexual subject matter, and just overly zany antics. I continued listening in a hope that things would change, and if not, it would be discarded to my Did Not Finish (DNF) pile. I believe I can count on one hand the books I have abandoned to this fate. There was a point while listening when the story began to open up like a blooming flower and it became difficult for me to put it down. I asked myself, “what just happened?” The story was going in one direction and it did a one hundred and eighty degree turn and took off. It was like a starship engaging its lightspeed engines, and we were off.
I think what really made me enjoy this book, once the author found his path, was that it had a fair number of emotional scenes which helped to balance out the continuous flow of humor. The author did a good job if telling the story from different perspectives and angles which also added to its depth. At times, the book felt like a blending of the movies Star Wars and Spaceballs. You have your stereotypical hero, an evil empire, a princes or queen, and the somewhat trusty sidekick. The author does a good job of sprinkling elements of the story throughout the book, but like any good mystery, they all come together in the end, and you never saw it coming. Even though at times the humor seemed over the top, there were aspects of what I would call smart humor making me laugh out loud. All of this was wrapped in a story that also was unpredictable and contained quite a few twists and turns. Even though the characters themselves felt like two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, a few were complex and memorable.
The audiobook’s narration by David Swanson was impressive for someone that has only a few titles to his name on Audible; at the time of this review. His ability to clearly voice distinct characters along with various accents was spot on. I do not remember any issues with the production or audio quality. The audio was consistent and did not have any noticeable audio artifacts that needed to be edited out.
For parents or younger readers, this book contains a hefty amount of sex, drugs, and crude adult humor. I would in no way recommend it for younger audiences. This book really is intended for mature readers and even many of those may be blushing at some of the subject matter covered. The book includes some religious satire what may offend some, however I do not think this was the author’s intention. If you are at all offended by any of the above, I recommend you find a different book to listen too.
In summary, for a book I was about to discard to my Did Not Finish (DNF) bin, Black Swan Planet gets recognition for being a book that surprised me the most. The story and the author’s ability to lower the level of satire made for a fun and enjoyable listen. It is not the type of book I would listen to all the time, but Mr. Peters makes me think twice when I feel like giving up too early on any book. For those who are going to listen to the book, I leave you with one thing. Beans, beans, and more beans…