This week I finished reading The Prankster by James Polster. It was an advance proof copy, but the book is on sale now – I read it all in a day but had to wait until I finished a couple of much more substantial books before I could start it.
The most notable thing about it is its length. At only 122 pages it is a very slim volume indeed, so not an ideal choice for summer holiday reading, unless you are only taking a day trip to the beach. I have read a few pieces by people who think that the dominance of e-books is going to make it easier to get books published that are not a standard length. Ironically, I have this in paperback rather than e-book format so the length is a lot more obvious.
Here is what I wrote about it. I tried to keep it appropriately short.
I don’t agree that books have to be any particular minimum length, especially now that so many are in electronic form. Far too many short stories and novellas have been padded out to reach a ‘standard’ length, so it is a breath of fresh air to see that someone is prepared to write a short-form book without feeling pressured to write more than they think necessary to tell the story.
Unfortunately in this case the story might get told in 122 pages, but the story is only half the appeal here. The other half is the situation or concept, which I think could have been easily explored further. Actually, even the story is a little rushed at the start and end, although in such a short time the author does manage to create a character you can thoroughly dislike and then turn him into somebody you like and crams a lot in.
The premise of the book is that Earth is being used as the setting for a sort of reality show by an alien race. The host, Pom Trager, visits Earth to play massive practical jokes which usually result in major historical events for us. In this story he gets stranded and has to reach San Diego where he has a chance to get back. In the course of the journey he refers to previous trips and events in passing. Each of those could have been expanded, perhaps at the start, to make a longer book.
Alternatively this could have been a great introduction to a series of books featuring this cross between Doctor Who and Jeremy Beadle, except the ending doesn’t really lend itself to being a part of a series.
As it is, this is a very readable book and worth reading, and maybe being too short is better than being too long – always leave the audience wanting more as they say.