My first free read of 2011 was Smallworld by Dominic Green, available free from Smashwords. Sci-fi is a little outside my comfort zone, and there were so many strange words in the first few pages that I began to wonder if I’d be able to continue reading. But I persevered, and I’m glad I did. The story concerns a tiny moonlet which is home to the Reborn-in-Jesus family, their various adopted children, a mysterious hermit and a Devil. The Devil has a habit of killing anyone who threatens the peace of the colony. The reason the Reborn-in-Jesuses have so many adopted children is because their parents were all killed by the Devil.

The novel has some great side-swipes at issues of genetic engineering (the McChickens), religious indoctrination, slavish exploitation of technology and the abuse of power in general. There are some laugh-out-loud moments: I liked this description of the state schools on other worlds, for example:

“Those schools incorporate electric shock discipline, chemical aversion therapy, and subliminal messaging.”
“Granted,” nodded the Pastor, “but it is not all good.”

There were a few minor typos and, in some places, I felt there was a paucity of commas. But nothing major. I will admit that the ending left me feeling slightly puzzled, but maybe I hadn’t been paying close enough attention.

I’ve come to the conclusion (after a whole week and a half of ereading) that there are two types of ebooks: those where you keep checking the page number you’re up to (and how much further there is to go), and those where you don’t care what page number you’re on, because you’re enjoying the book. Rather like being on a long car journey – if it’s a tedious one, you keep looking at the road signs to see how many miles/kilometres you’ve got until your destination. If the scenery is beautiful, you’re not so worried. At the beginning of this book, I was checking the page numbers, but by half-way through, I was enjoying the ride. Thanks, Dominic!