Elite: Mostly Harmless charts the story of Commander Angel Rose, space-trading this and that to eke out a living, shooting into hyperspace across the galaxies, and trying to avoid not only vicious pirates out to destroy her, but even worse… having to return back to Slough Orbital, her home-based space station where her ignorant father and overbearing mother hold high authority.
Throughout the 28 chapters, she meets a number of sometimes nefarious characters, most notably Spanish-sounding Dredd Catherine, the weasley Captain Riley – a ghastly and repellent individual, and Mental Eddie, whose name speaks for itself.
And Kate also puts Slough on the map with this novel – alongside John Betjeman’s poem and the fact that The Office was set there.
There are references to the economy, such as to why Angel can’t afford to immediately replace the space station’s aerial, which broke off from her Cobra after she had another inadvertent poor docking, and it’s certainly a help if you’re familiar with the world of Elite – the space-set trading videogame – but if not, Kate certanly paints a detailed picture of everything which would be seen, if this were a movie. In addition, even before I put the CD in my car, I imagined there would be the hum of Commander Angel Rose’s spaceship in the background, and there was.
In fact, it’s great to listen to while you’re driving along the motorway and can imagine Angel Rose motoring along across the solar system at the same time, and whenever she’s having problems controlling her ship, I liken it to my own car feeling a little sluggish (it *really* needs a service!)
Elite: Mostly Harmless occasionally drops in slight elements of Douglas Adams, not least because of the title – which was also the rating of a ship commander in the original Elite game, but this novel stands in its own right. And while Kate has been presenting on our television screens for many a moon, and may look like butter wouldn’t melt, there are a number of particularly gruesome scenes on display (or in your head, of course), one of which reminded me of something I once saw on the now-defunct website, Ogrish, which specialised in showing fatalities and near-fatalities.
Yes, you’ll need a strong stomach occasionally.
When listening to Elite: Mostly Harmless, I originally thought, “Wouldn’t this make a great movie?”, well, yes it would, but 2hrs wouldn’t be long enough to tell the whole tale, and these days multi-part TV series are ‘the new movies’ – with the likes of Breaking Bad, The Killing, House of Cards et al, all grabbing the attention of millions viewers from start to finish, whilst telling a full story – and it also means we get more to watch than we would with a film. But who to play Angel?
I thought first of a US actress – the newly-single Emma Stone, but then a UK actress appeared on my radar (to continue the Elite theme), who I’d seen before but not since listening to this audiobook. On balance, I think she would actually be a better fit for the role, too. That actress is Justine Cain (below-left), best known as Charlie from BBC3’s excellent comedy, Some Girls, although what drew me to her attention more recently was her guest appearance in BBC1’s Doctors, which is my guilty pleasure, and the only soap on TV worth watching, in my view. Her episode was called Perfect Match, although it may well have dropped off the BBC iPlayer by the time you read this. If there’s another way to somehow watch it online, I would very much recommend it.
Also, I’d recommend Mental Eddie to be played by either Tony Way (below-centre – Sightseers, Edge of Tomorrow) or Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Alien Resurrection). As for Catherine – Gina Gershon (Bound), Salma Hayek (Desperado, Everly), or Verónica Echegui (below-right), aka Elena from Fortitude.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the audiobook, and click on the book cover above for the full-size version.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.