Sunday, April 20, 2014

Treasure Planet by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox

Re-imaginings of classic novels seems to be very much in vogue in science fiction and fantasy in recent years.  From Dan Simmons’ tribute to Homer, Illium, to the more quirky Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from Seth Grahame-Smith, the genre seems to be enjoying this in all of its varieties.  At the same time, shared world environments also seem to keep on trucking along, from the huge successes of late in Warhammer fiction to the occasional release of a new Wild Cards book from George R.R. Martin, even to the Kindle Worlds program and the output of fan fiction flowing out.  Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox, in Treasure Planet, have created an intersection of these two trends.

Peter Cartwright and his mother live in an inn, where his friend Marthar spends a lot of time.  Peter and Marthar are at the same grade in school, and have a lot of common interests, but the two have a key difference: Peter is human, while Marthat is kzin, part of a species of feline-like aliens that fought a vicious war with humans.  However, on Wunderland, the planet the Peter and Marthar live on, the war is ended, and the two species live together in peace.

However, when an old spacer is killed at Peter’s inn, and pirates begin chasing Peter and Marthar with talk about a treasure planet, Peter, Marthar, and a host of other characters begins an exciting, dangerous mission to find the secret pirate treasure planet and solve the mystery found there.

Treasure Planet is a science fiction version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, following a young hero on an adventure full of pirates, intrigue, and treasure.  It is set in the Man-Kzin War shared universe, created by Larry Niven, and does feature some characters from multiple volumes of the series, but this novel is very new reader friendly, not expecting the reader to come into it with any prior knowledge of the characters, the conflict, or the setting.

Treasure Planet captures the excitement and adventure of its literary forebear, and is wonderful fun to read.  The adventures of Peter and Marthar are truly fun, and the novel makes for a great adventure tale just like the original it is based on.  However, Treasure Planet also suffers from being a little too closely related to Treasure Island at times.  With a peg-legged kzin pirate named Silver, a mysterious omen of treasure from the very start, even having the novel start with the protagonist at the inn, all speak to how diligently Colebatch and Fox stuck to their source material, but it also leads to a fair amount of predictability.  At times, this made the book a little tricky to get through, but the story at its heart, and the wonderful adventure writing from its authors, wins through, and builds to a very satisfying ending.

Fans of pure adventure science fiction will truly enjoy this novel, as will those who are fans of Stevenson.  With this novel working as an entry point to the Man-Kzin universe, it is very reader-friendly, and is more than worth the read.


  1. I have read Treasure Planet, and endorse this review. It is a ripping yarn. "Silver" whether man or kzin, is one of the immortals. All the kzin, even the good ones, are suitably blood-thirsty. A great adventure.

  2. This story is about twice the length of the original Treasure Island but I read it in a single fascinated sitting, unable to put it down. This story proves the classic adventure story in not dead yet. One of the most moving scenes, as in the original Treasure Island, in the murder of the good kzin who defys pressure to join the pirates. The characters are vividly developed, and the action non-stop. The computers of an advanced civilization are fascinating, as is what we learn of kzin customs and society and the hangovers of the great war between men and kzin. A refreshing, original and highly recommended tribute to RLS. I would recommend this book, too, to budding authors looking for tips on the novelist's trechnique.