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Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Free Lunch

Disclaimer: this is not about a literal free lunch that I'm giving away. Much as I'd love to.


The Free Lunch, by Spider Robinson
Reason for Reading: Boredom with other books in immediate stack
Rating: 4/5

Imagine a theme park like Disneyworld, but better. It's got rides based on Beatles songs, themed characters from The Princess Bride and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and better yet, it's literally impossible to have a bad time there. It's called Dreamworld.

If your life was terrible enough, wouldn't you want to move there and never leave? For 12-year-old Mike, it's his entire goal in life. He's tried breaking into Dreamworld three times before, but on the fourth try he meets a remarkable woman named Annie who helps him finally succeed. She's been Underground in Dreamworld for longer than Mike's been alive and with her help, he gets to explore the behind-the-scenes magic of Dreamworld. At first, living underground in Dreamworld is everything he imagines, but when an unknown threat shows up, he and his new friend will be tested to the limit as they do everything in their power to protect the world that they love.

This is a random book I picked up at a recent library sale, so I really had no clue what it was going to be about. The first thing I had to struggle with a bit is getting used to the setting of the book. When I read science fiction, I tend to pick older books which were written before modern computers or the internet. Heinlein, Asimov and all of the other great writers I can't think of right now all imagined similar technologies to what we have, but they used different terms than "internet" "email" and "cell phone". It was different for me to read a more contemporary science fiction novel that actually referred to all of those modern conveniences. Also, when the book opens and we start to learn about Dreamworld, I kept expecting more science fictiony parts to it. For the most part, it's described as a futuristic Disneyworld, and it didn't seem that far removed from the real world.

That's not a criticism, actually. The science fictiony parts came in at a point where you were least expecting it, and going behind the scenes of Dreamworld actually made me wish there was such a place because it just sounds so darn cool. This books shifts into more of an action/adventure novel after Mike and Annie discover something amiss in Dreamland, and the emphasis is less on how cool Dreamworld is (bummer in my opinion) and more on how to save it.

The bad guys are really really bad, and Annie and Mike make an interesting, if somewhat odd pair to face them down. I kept thinking it should bother me that Mike was supposed to be 12 years old but talked and thought like an adult, but somehow, it just didn't. I didn't care. This book was just too much fun. I loved going behind the scenes at Dreamworld with them. I loved the tender relationship that developed when Annie, a cantankerous loner who hasn't been around people in the past thirteen years, impulsively decides to befriend Mike.

This book is written almost at a YA level, but like I said, the baddies are really bad, so this book is not for younger teens. If you like Disneyworld and/or science fiction, this is a combination muy perfecto.


Trish said...

Ha ha! I know that feeling when everything else in the stack isn't screaming your name. Disneyland except better? Sounds like a really fun book.

Anonymous said...

This really sounds like book I'd want to read. Thanks for the review!

Rhinoa said...

Damn and I came here expecting a free luinch ;) Dreamworld sounds like a place that is a lot of fun. Glad you enjoyed your random find. It's always great to discover a book you know nothing about and finding out you really enjoy it!

Kim L said...

trish-yes, doesn't it just appeal to the kid in you?

towerofbooks-thanks for stopping by!

rhinoa-yeah, by the time I could send you a free lunch... it probably wouldn't be very good anymore :-)

Debi said...

Ohh, this really does sound like a fun read! my wish list isn't long enough already...

Alice Teh said...

One more to add into my wish list... long list, that one but that doesn't mean it can't continue to grow...