Top positive review
I must learn to quit judging books by their covers
December 8, 2014
After 15 years as acting Earth diplomat on Union Station, a far-flung outpost maintained by the Stryx, the race that rescued humanity from space-faring obscurity, Kelly Frank is tired of her vague job description, inadequate pay and the ever-present fear of being locked out of her apartment due to ever-increasing debt. With every collect-call from her mother she questions her career decisions.
When Kelly is gifted a subscription to the station-run dating service, Eemas, it is a complete surprise that she consents to go through with it, given her luck.
But a girl’s luck is bound to change at some point…isn’t it?
Date Night on Union Station follows the trajectories of Kelly and Joe, two unwitting victims of the dating service A.I. who, in addition to their efforts to successfully navigate life far from home, are destined to have some very memorable (that is putting it kindly) blind dates.
Date Night on Union Station is a fun, sweet, romantic comedy set in a place that is both alien and yet strangely familiar. E.M. Foner has penned a clever, witty story that is a cozy introduction to the genre for those unfamiliar with science fiction, and a welcome shot of optimism for those who need a vacation from post-apocalyptic angst.
If this sounds appealing, follow along while I gush in a brief, non-spoiler fashion while also confronting my hard-to-kill Book Snobbery.
I have a long-standing tradition of judging books by their covers. Over many decades it is a quirk that has served me well, which has only served to reinforce the habit. It is poor (by my standards) cover art that has informed a great deal of my prejudice towards self-published books and my tendency to look only to major publishing houses and well-respected small press publishers to meet my genre fiction needs. When I first saw the cover of Date Night on Union Station, my initial impressions were not favorable. Judging solely by the cover, my assumptions tended towards a story about naughty human-robot relations. Those assumptions were wrong.
On his Amazon webpage, author E.M. Foner writes:
"I wrote Date Night on Union Station while taking a break from work on a science fiction epic I’ve been struggling with for years. The goal was to cheer myself up and to find out if there is still an audience for a science fiction comedy that gets its laughs from dialogue and funny situations rather than from gross-outs and shocks.
As many readers have pointed out, the EarthCent series could be rated PG under the old fashioned system, no bloodshed, no graphic sex, no four letter words. And after years of imagining a galaxy for my epic in which multiple human civilizations are at war with each other, it did me a world of good to write about a galaxy where most people are just trying to make a living and find some joy in life."
That last phrase is the perfect synopsis of Date Night on Union Station…it is about characters trying to make a living and find some joy in life.
I saw this book being discussed by members of an online science fiction book club to which I belong, and it sounded interesting. This is the same group who assigned the original “Wool” short story as a weekly selection several years back which prompted me to read, and fall strongly for, the rest of Hugh Howey’s novel. The recommendation of these readers and the fact that the book is currently available for free prompted me to give it a try, and I’m so glad that I did.
It grabbed me.
I liked Kelly Frank from the very start, and my engagement with her, and with Joe McAllister, and with the peripheral characters of the novel, continued to grow as I read on. Date Night on Union Station is a comedy, true, but it is of the witty variety rather than the laugh out loud variety…at least that was my experience (though I did laugh out loud once, prompting my wife to ask what I found so funny). I enjoy the rare farce, but this wasn’t one and I was grateful for that.
As I read Forner’s story I realized that there were elements in his work that were similar to those that I have enjoyed in Alex Scarrow’s Ellie Quin series. The characters are a little quirky, and yet easy to relate to, and the author populates his science fiction universe with all sorts of interesting details that make the world fun. Those details reveal a history for the characters and the world they populate.
Astute readers will quickly divine the path on which the protagonists tread, and their hopes for both Kelly and Joe will project an assumed outcome for the story. Trust me, that really doesn’t take anything away from the story, it actually adds to the story’s enjoyment. For along the way both characters will have interesting experiences that not only showcase Forner’s sense of humor, but also introduce intriguing information about the Stryx and their relationship towards the people of Earth.
One of the more entertaining parts of the story for me was the way in which one of my favorite musicals, My Fair Lady, inspires a couple of preadolescent girls to become entrepeneurs. Something about their scheme called to mind the brothers in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, The Rolling Stones.
As I turned the final virtual page of Date Night on Union Station, I had a big smile on my face and a tear in my eye (I really am a sappy reader), for I both enjoyed the story and knew that I could venture further into Forner’s world with the next chapter in the EarthCent series. Foner writes:
"I received so many requests to extend the Date Night universe into a series that I put aside my epic for an extended period to write a sequel, Alien Night on Union Station. The events take place five years after the conclusion of Date Night, and the plot involves a mix of business, diplomacy, gaming and family relations. As a bonus, we finally get to meet Kelly’s mother."
I do not have any illusions that this experience, any more than my experience with the work of Hugh Howey or Alex Scarrow, will eradicate my prejudices against self-published works and the cover art that brands them as such. It has, however, made me aware of the work of E.M. Foner.
And that is a start.