The Getaway Special by Jerry Oltion
List Price: $26.95
Hardcover - 400 pages (December 2001)
Tor Books; ISBN: 0312877773
Review by Ernest Lilley
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK

If there's a Jerry Oltion fan club, sign me up! I haven't had this much fun since Greg Costikyan's First Contract. The Getaway Special takes a slew of Science Fiction's favorite ideas and turns them on their heads. I'm sure "Doc" Smith, Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson would have approved, though that's cheating a tad, since Poul's quoted on the cover.

Oltion has recycled one of his favorite characters, the likable mad Scientist Allen Meisner, whom you may remember from a different story universe altogether (Abandon in Place - see our review) to lead humanity in the glorious charge into the galaxy using a hyperdrive motor he dreamed up in his lab and tries out on board the space shuttle.

It might have been nice if he'd told the shuttle crew, or maybe mission control, what he was about to do, but Allen's a bit myopic when he has an idea. It comes as a real shock to him when he finds out that giving the hyperdrive to humanity isn't the government's idea of a good thing, and in short order the world is back on the brink of nuclear annihilation, exactly the thing Allen, as a card carrying member of the International Network of Scientists Against Nuclear Extermination (INSANE) was trying to avoid.

In fact, consequences just aren't something Allen's much good at predicting, so it's a good thing that Shuttle Commander Judy Gallagher takes a liking to him and the idea that humanity should have a shot at the stars and helps him make good his escape.

Soon, which is about all the time they've got, Allen and Judy are off traipsing around the galaxy in a starship they made from a reinforced septic tank financed by a bank robber and fitted out with parts from Radio Shack and a plumbing supply house.

If mankind wasn't ready for Allen's ideas, just wait till star faring aliens get a load of him.

The Getaway Special reprises a classic SF premise, where the lone experimenter cobbles together a spaceship and heads off into the unknown. It owes more to E.E. "Doc" Smith's "Skylark of Space" series than to Heinlein's Rocket Ship Galileo, but there's room for tribute to both and others besides.

Oltion is definitely an author to keep a close eye on, and The Getaway Special delivers plenty of adventure and amusement in a way that would make any Golden Age SF novel proud, while looking the new millennium straight in the eye.

2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu