Posts Tagged ‘Quanderhorn Xperimentations’


(The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall. London: Gallancz, 2019, 16.99 pounds, 464 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

(First, a cautionary note: Don’t expect an overly discerning review; I read this book in the wee hours of several mornings while in a semi-zombified state due to ongoing insomnia. Those not blessed with that affliction can achieve a similar state through ingestion of too many IPAs, through smoking copious amounts of Humboldt Paralysis Weed or, preferably, through combining the two approaches.)

When I saw this book, I said to myself, “Self, ya gotta read this thing!” There were two immediate attractions: the name of the book, an obvious reference to the early Quatermass sci-fi films (derived from the BBC TV series), the first of which (1955) is titled The Quartermass Xperiment; and the name of one of the co-authors, Rob Grant, co-creator with Doug Naylor of what is, hands down, the funniest sci-fi comedy series ever produced, Red Dwarf. (If you’ve never seen it, the first six series are gems, as is series 8.)

The promo copy on the back cover of The Quanderhorn Xperimentations gives a good indication of its contents: “Adapted backwards from the future from the Radio 4 series before it was made.” In other words, the book’s interior — I hesitate to call it a novel — consists primarily of absurdist humor.

In this it somewhat resembles Red Dwarf, as it does in other respects: it treats some similar sci-fi tropes (e.g., time travel, polymorphic life forms); has frequent one-liners; running gags; character-based and oftentimes crude humor; and uses humorous organizational names and their consequent acronyms. (My favorite from Red Dwarf is the Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society — you can work that one out for yourselves.) One other similarity is that Quanderhorn lifts at least one joke — concerning the disposal of human remains — almost word for word from Red Dwarf (S1E1); there might be others, but I didn’t spot them.

Quanderhorn Xperimentations does, however, differ significantly from Red Dwarf in four ways: the characters in Red Dwarf are much stronger; the Red Dwarf episodes are much more coherent than any portion, let alone the whole, of Quanderhorn; as a result of those two things it’s almost always possible to suspend disbelief while viewing Red Dwarf, no matter how funny or how absurd the situation, and it’s simply not possible to do that with The Quanderhorn Xperimentations; and a lot of the humor in Red Dwarf is quite witty, something largely lacking in Quanderhorn.

As for the differences between Quanderhorn Xperimentations and the Quatermass films, there are several, the primary ones being: the Quatermass films were straight-up sci-fi, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations is a work of absurdist humor with a sci-fi background; the Quatermass films featured a superhero-like primary character, Bernard Quatermass, who was both brilliant and ethical, while the corresponding character in The Quanderhorn Xperimentations, Darius Quanderhorn, is a callous, narcissistic evil genius.

Still, while The Quanderhorn Xperimentations falls short of both Red Dwarf and the Quatermass films, there’s enough humor in it to make it worth reading if you’re in the mood for an exceedingly light, undemanding read.

Recommended for Red Dwarf aficionados, fans of absurdist humor, insomniacs, zombies, and those who like to read after quaffing too many IPAs and inhaling the combustion products of burning Paralysis Weed.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (large pdf sample here). His latest book is the compilation Godless: 150 Years of Disbelief, published by PM Press, and when the insomnia let’s up and he’s relatively coherent, Zeke is working on the sequel to Free Radicals, an unrelated sci-fi novel, a nonfiction book on the seamier sides of Christianity, and an anarchist compilation for PM.

Free Radicals front cover