Right to Know
by Edward Willett
Cover Artist: Dan O'Driscoll
Review by Jon Guenther
Bundoran Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780988067455
Date: 07 January 2014 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
This was my first read by Canadian author, Edward Willett, who has had a long and prolific career. Right to Know is the story of Art Stoddard, an unwitting ally to broadcasting disinformation aboard a generation starship of Earthlings searching for a new habitable planet. This massive collection of Habs separates these space travelers into clearly divided social classes. There are the Shipborn that double as pretty much the working lower and middle classes, and then the Crew that are elite. All are ruled by a political body of representatives, including Art's father, each bent on achieving ends to their own advantage.
Art is quickly becoming the ne'er-do-well disappointment to his father, of course, making him the young and na´ve archetype who will predictably become a hero. When Art is kidnapped by an underground rebel force, captured by the ship police and then ultimately spirited away to another world where the political and social upheaval is as great as on the vessel, he manages to escape. Art must reach into himself and find the courage to resolve the conflicts.
While I think the book is an attempt to make some strong sociopolitical statements, it proved to be a wildly entertaining read. SF is a great place to explore such human themes and Mr. Willett does so without becoming too preachy in the effort. I found the characters realistic, the plot solid, and the book lacked a lot of exposition. I also felt the length of the novel (barely 250 pages) actually a good length for the effort.
Most all the other elements of good SF were there as well. The novel had romance, an ego-maniacal supporting antagonist, family drama, intrigue, and plenty of action. Truth be told, there were many times while reading where I was reminded of the old Buck Rogers in the 25th Century serials I watched growing up that played on television in the early 80s. This gave me a sense of nostalgia and I found myself appreciative of the effort.
I didn't find any real cons to the novel other than the conflict resolution between father and son seemed a little weak in its presentation. Some of the political and social viewpoints that run through the underlying theme might offend the corresponding viewpoints of others. But then if literature isn't at least controversial on some levels, and doesn't challenge us to think about the consequences of putting our whole trust in government, what's the point?
If you want a fun and rollicking SF yarn that I found to be pretty suitable for most age groups, Right to Know is a great selection.