Review by Sean Gabb The Banjax Arrest By Jonathan Lamb ISBN: 978-1463644680
The plot can be briefly described. It is the future – perhaps the very distant future, perhaps just a few centuries. Whatever the case, humanity has spread across many star systems, and has made contact with various other intelligent races. With some of these it has interbred. Others it has reduced to benign subservience.
The character round whom everything revolves is Baron Banjax. He is not really an aristocrat: he bought his title. But he is an immensely wealthy half-human who made his money from planetary waste disposal. Now in later life, he has given all his business interests to his sons and retired to a strange but habitable moon that he has bought, and where he rules by virtue of feudal ownership and as a leading devotee of the new faith of Bo-Go_Max.
He might have been left there forever, except for the discovery of a mass of financial and business improprieties that force the authorities to issue an arrest warrant and send in a police mission to arrest him.
With these police officers is Troy Pace, whose rich and well-connected father apparently thinks the Baron’s moon is just the sort of place where he can recover from a big head injury.
I say the plot can be briefly described. But going further than this would deprive the reader of some unexpected and well-paced surprises. We have an increasingly bizarre chief suspect – half Marlon Brando, half Robert Maxwell. We have a very slippery cult leader, and a slightly sinister young stowaway. Above all perhaps, we have a moon that, following what may or may not have been an accidental collision, is progressively turning from paradise into a ball of unstable rock.
As said, the most important character is the Baron himself. The character with whom we are supposed most to identify is poor Troy with his head injury. My own favourite, however, is Croman, the cult leader. He is a fraud and a chancer. He has shamelessly abused the trust of a very simple race. He may bear some responsibility for the moon’s recent catastrophe. On the other hand, he is very strongly drawn, and has just the right degree of moral ambiguity to make me wonder who would play him best in a film adaptation. I think it would be Roger Delgado, who played The Master in the old Dr Who. Because he has been dead for about 35 years, I suppose Gary Oldman might have to do – or possibly John Malkevich with his English accent.
But this is drifting off the subject. This is a very good first novel, and I look forward to many more from its author.