I’ve recently returned to an author that I haven’t encountered for quite a while, via this book:
Daniel Manus Pinkwater (Is that a great name for an author or what?) writes nominal children’s books. Like most of today’s children’s books, his are better than typical adults’ books. Pinkwater’s books are all science fiction novels. The main character is nearly always a young boy who has a bizarre adventure with something extremely out-of-the-ordinary. Slaves of Spiegel, the second novel in this collection, is no exception.
It begins on the planet Spiegel, where the race of fat men are holding a junk food feast to celebrate their successful plundering of the universe. They have collected the fattiest, greasiest, and most sugary confections from every planet and galaxy and brought them back to Spiegel to celebrate. But in the middle of the feast, their king Sargon becomes suddenly dissatisfied. Instead of simply hogging potato pancakes, he wants to search the universe for the most satisfying junk food. Thus begins a series of events that will lead to The Magic Moscow, a fast food stand in Hoboken, New Jersey, being abducted along with its chef Steve and his young assistant.
Slaves of Spiegel is a sequel to Fat Men from Space and maintains the wry wit of the first book. It also continues Pinkwater’s fine tradition of sending up science fiction cliches. Science fiction is full of planets or societies serving as wish-fulfillment vehicles, ranging from Heinlein’s libertarian utopias to Clarke’s sorta’ Hindu mystical fulfillment in Childhood’s End to Jack Vance’s nature preserve planet in Araminta Station to scores of others, some of them quite frightening. The planet Spiegel is very much in that tradition, complete with an all-powerful king and a fleet of starships and so forth. But as Pinkwater points out, the wish that most folks spend more time wanting fulfilled is for lots and lots of good-tasting food. Fat Men from Space and Slaves of Spiegel are thus likely to remain timely and relevant for longer than the fantasy utopias of from the supposed greats of sci fi.