I just finished up a book by Steve Wetherell called the The Last Volunteer, the first in a series titled The Doomsayer Chronicles.
In it, we follow the happenstance iffy luck-filled life of Bip, who has been chosen for a great task at hand, that of saving the planet. But during Bip’s tale, we are also introduced to Handen Strike, who landed on the planet hundreds of years earlier, an odd entity who is flitting about in Bip’s head, trying to stop Bip from saving the planet, and a fortuitous thief from the big city named Azron.
It’s all quite the tale really, taking place on a planet called Bersch, which is doomed to be destroyed by a giant meteorite or ball of nuclear weapons headed right for the planet. And it is Bip’s mission to warn the world with the hope of getting some help to stop this giant ball of nuclear fission!
I don’t remember why I came across obtaining The Last Volunteer. I presume it might have been by recommendation of someone I already read and I also presume it was one of those “free kindle book” moments for the title. Otherwise I am not sure if I would have bough the book.
The story is a mish mash of writing, where I feel like I’m reading about pragmatic British and their stoic sense of humor, The Hobbit, mythical creatures like the Yeti, Kraken and Minotaurs, as well as some fantastic science fiction and immortal entities.
I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fantasy planet called Bersch and its occupants but that is fine, that was a personal thing. I didn’t quite get pulled in to caring about anyone there.
For example, Bip’s ability to master the skills of a Psyentist. Or lack there of. Being a Psyentist is akin to being like Gandalf, a grand magician or magic user. But it’s a bit more than that. Barely. But Bip’s lack of mastering this skill can be comical at best and though it wasn’t used often, was a great source of humor. Humor that I think we needed more of from Bip.
Then there was the compelling story of Handen Strike, which I did enjoy following.
And there was the science fiction of it all.
Yet it was all wrapped up in a matter-of-fact sense of blunt, dry British humor which sort of made my day, even if it felt a little misplaced at times. But I did love some aspects of it.
For example, a spaceship is hurtling to its death as it plummets out of orbit and the captain calls a meeting, asking for suggestions on how to save the ship and themselves. They are all quite calm about it as different members of the crew toss out ideas and the captain keeps commenting on what great ideas everyone is having and it is a very inspirational get-together. Someone comes up with the best idea of all that the captain likes but when he discovers how long the fix would take, he delivers the dry line of “great idea, but we only have a few hours to live.”
Another aspect I enjoyed, a bit whimsical as it might be, but things like when a character breathes deep the fresh air of a new city, even if it is filtered through his cigarette.
I liked that feel or tone that continued to permeate the story, but it felt too much like a Lord of the Rings kind of story and I wasn’t sucked in.
It is true that I read and finished the book, but I tend to see my obligations through, even if that includes starting a book. If I start something, I must finish it.
But this tale is filled with reluctant but dedicated heroes on missions (Bip and Handen). Sure, Bip is a loser, but the oddest thing about him is his luck at getting out of situations. Not skill… luck.
Wetherell abuses the fantasy trope with no apologies as he attacks us with a dry sense of British humor with a Monty Python sort of feel, but much more serious in tone. If you can remember the serious nature of Bip’s and Handen’s journey, you think, hey, that’s funny… wait… the fate of humanity is resting in their hands.
So if you like things like Gary Adams stories, or Monty Python, or fantasy science fiction meshes with dry, matter-of-fact presentations, you will probably enjoy this book and series.
Though to be honest, when I read a book I want an ending. And this book does not have one. The story ends as a jumping off point that is intended to lead you into the next book in The Doomsayer Journeys. But I’m not sure I will pick it up. I found myself speed-reading through the last third to finish my obligation to the book, even if I did find the conversations and adventures enlightening and fun.
Just not fun enough. But still, if this was the author’s first book, he did a great job then!