Space Taxis by Adam & Harriet Frosh (@spacetaxis)
Burton Mayers Books, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)
You think life is currently tough and sometimes a bit surreal? Well, it could be worse… Meet New York Cab driver Mike Redolfo, who back in 1977 gets abducted by aliens – which turns out to be the least of his problems. Further back in time, in 1944, in fact, a man and his Jewish fiancée are fleeing across Nazi-occupied Europe – but this guy has otherworldly powers, not unlike those Redolfo begins to find he might have on the planet Vost… It sounds like a jumble of genres, but father and daughter author team Frosh make it work, and Space Taxis delivers a very readable sci-fi/alt-history mash-up.
Redolfo is a likeable everyman hero – and his Fifth Element tinged adventure sees him trying to find a way back to earth by driving his flying cab in a truly Bruce Willis friendly style. Try as he might to keep a low profile and earn his fare home, his luck runs out when he’s coerced into getaway driving for a nasty bunch of alien criminals who are about to help launch an all-out planetary coop.
The murky link between the timelines becomes clear after a while – it seems like the Nazis seeking occult power will settle for alien mind powers, and Redolfo finds himself as a key element in the time-hopping adventure where secrets from the past might just be the key to saving the planet.
Simple prose makes Space Taxis suitable for readers of young adults upwards, and there’s nothing too grim here, so this should have wide appeal. There is some nicely observed humour and even some interspecies romance in the offing.
The sci-fi ideas are strong and backed up by some great writing which brings the wacky adventure to life in fine style. There is plenty of future tech to marvel at and the joyful interposing of a NY yellow cab in the airspace of an alien world. There are mind control and emp devices, various nice otherworldly devices that add to the plot but aren’t the hard future civilisations of, say, Asimov’s Foundation or Herbert’s Dune. What I enjoyed most was Mike’s run-in with the Vost authorities and his Driver-like getaway driving. The time-honoured plot of a good guy beholden to the baddies (or are they actually the oppressed victims?) is a winner and should allow readers to jump in and enjoy.
There are some bits that drag with a little too much info downloaded that slows up the action a little, but there is sufficient interesting lore going on, especially with the Vost’s original tribes of Terannians, who are a fascinating foil to the human element here.
I’d love to know which Frosh author was responsible for which bits (I am guessing daddy did the Nazis, but I could be wrong). What keeps you going is that the authors succeed in making you care about the main characters and manage to wangle in the answer to one of the Second World War’s mysterious changes of hearts by one of their top command.
The Frost authors tread a delicate line with the use of harsh actual locations in the earth timeline, which include the notorious Theresienstadt concentration/labour camp, which housed thousands of Czechoslovakian and deported Jews. It isn’t easy fusing real world-historical events of the magnitude of the crimes against the Jews in WW2 with a slapstick taxi driving crime caper but hats off as Space Taxis takes it all in its stride and delivers a fast and furious tale that will keep you turning the pages. I found the action a bit neutered for my taste, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Space Taxis brings a host of imagination to the party, and I’d be interested to see what the Frosh family can come up with next!