AFTER THE BLUE
Brunswick Galaxy Press / 253 pages / February 1998
Tired of waiting for the next Douglas Adams opus? Afraid the Red Dwarf franchise has been milked for all its worth? Don’t give in to despair; there must be other knee-slappers out there. Well, with a minimal amount of digging, I have found one for you.
After the Blue had a harder road to life than most of the novels on your bookstore shelf. At one point, it appeared dead-in-the-water as its original publishing house stalled, slowed, and then gave up the right to print it. But, Russel Like wasn’t giving up that easy; he researched the possibilities and decided to self-publish. Usually, that is fairly reliable evidence that a book should have remained unseen, but in this case it is definitely the publisher’s loss.
Uncovering this little treasure will be your gain.
Earth, in the not-so-distant future is a radically changed planet. Most of the world lies in ruins, reclaimed by the wilderness always waiting nearby. No planes drone overhead. No television signals bounce from satellites. No monster concert tours scream into the night. No people no more. Or hardly any.
This is the world after the Gruumsbaggians’ momentous and catastrophic visit from the stars. The people of Earth pretty much boils down to the town of Jamesburg, New Jersey. Aside from a few “wanderers,” Jamesburg is it. And the folks of the small town are getting along just fine until they encounter something they hoped never to see.
A century after their initial visit, the Gruumsbaggians have returned. The humans fear it is to finish the job their bacteria started. Soon, they realize the answer is much worse: the aliens have come back to repair the damage they inadvertently caused. Even worse, they are armed with the sketchiest and just plain wrong conclusions about how Earth operated. That isn’t going to stop them, though, from getting the planet and its people back to where they think we were when they so rudely interrupted.
After the Blue is a first novel, but it doesn’t show. Russel Like writes with an easy, assured style and a dry wit that speaks of years of experience. Or, maybe, he’s just one of the lucky ones who gets it right on the first try.
The showdown between the remaining humans and the Gruumsbaggians is a case of our own pop culture coming back to haunt us. It’s a struggle to overcome a well-meaning, but misinformed invasion force. If there is a disappointment at all, it is that the humans feel compelled to sink to violence to fight back. But, that’s all right; when have humans ever failed to disappoint.
Perhaps, in the case of Russel Like, we have an author who knew he had a good thing and refused to give up. Let’s just assume he didn’t stoop to violence to achieve his goal. I’m fairly certain he didn’t.