Take Back Plenty

Colin Greenland
Take Back Plenty Cover

A Space Extravaganza!


The blurb on the back cover calls this "A Space Extravaganza" and that's a pretty fair description of what you get in its pages. Its an entertaining adventure which manages to squeeze in a fair number of interesting ideas and exotic locales and is rendered in some pretty vivid prose. It won both the British Science Fiction Association and Clarke awards back in 1991 and while I certainly wouldn't rank it amongst the top echelon of winners of either award that I have read, I can understand why the unusual blend of adventure and 'ideas' SF made a splash.

The story is set in a future whose past is slightly different from our own. In this (alternate) future, Mars has a breathable atmosphere and its canals were built by an ancient alien civilization. Venus is a steaming, hellish jungle planet. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon he found an alien entity from a race called the Capellans waiting for him. the Capellans bestowed a hyper-space drive and other technological benefits to humanity, but also set up a boundary beyond which humanity could not go at the limits of the solar system. They also introduced a bunch of client species into the system.

The plot follows the (mis)adventures of one Tabitha Jute, a cargo-ship (truck) driver who hauls cargoes from planetoid to planetoid. Desperate to make some quick money to pay off a police fine she takes a contract shuttling around an odd cabaret group who of course turn out to not only not be who they claim they are, but also be involved in some activities of a highly dubious nature - activities which will draw the attention of the ever-vigilant and mysterious Capellans down upon them. Its a fun ride all told, and while in the earlier sections of the book, the feeling of the protagonist (and hence the reader) being rail-roaded from location to location is a little frustrating, as the back-story unfolds the narrative becomes more engaging and the final pay-off is good.

Take Back Plenty reads as a standalone, but the author did write a couple of sequels and I wouldn't be averse to reading them down the line.