This impressive début novel from New Zealander Paul Hewlett is a fast-paced satire on ownership, collective responsibility and the morals of our political and corporate masters. Billed as an ecological ‘fable for our times’, it is a comic tale of benign, technologically advanced aliens who visit Earth with a view to purchasing Antarctica. Worried that mineral mining will shortly defile ‘Earth’s jewel’ the aliens propose a deal whereby they replace the continent with an identical facsimile, putting the original on display in Moonzoo, an intergalactic theme park, along with many other treasures of the Universe.
The bargain will be sweetened by the transfer of technology which will eliminate poverty, hunger and inequality. The negotiating aliens have thoughtfully attempted to ‘blend in’ by taking the physical forms of Elvis Presley and the polar explorer Roald Amundsen!
Unfortunately, despite approaching the US President, the Pope, the UN and the King of England, all they meet is suspicion, duplicity and intransigence from the ranks of the great and good. Throw in a troupe of Elvis-worshipping monks, assorted swamis and gurus and a military hell-bent on nuking the aliens and the chances of success look bleak.
However, one individual, the young sculptor Tanya Voce, may just hold the key to the deal, if only everyone can stay alive long enough and Elvis can be persuaded not to sing again?
Fresh, funny and riotously entertaining, Moonzoo asks all the right questions about who owns the planet and who has the right to trade in what rightly belongs to us all.Peter Whittaker