Part of the Cuban Science Fiction series from Restless Books, ‘A Planet For Rent’ is the English-language debut of the Cuban author Yoss. Set on and around a future Earth where alien races have stepped in to prevent the human race from destroying the planet, humans are definitely second-class citizens. All most humans want to do is to leave their planet and make a new life out among the stars, escaping the life of virtual slavery imposed by the alien restrictions on their lives. Billed as a novel but really more a set of very loosely connected stories, Yoss explores the ways in which people find their way off Earth and asks what it really means to be human.
Although I was expecting a novel with a clear narrative running through it, the loose connections between the stories actually worked really well in painting a picture of this dystopian future Earth. There isn’t a lot of time to get to know characters as they appear and disappear with each story, but you can see the ripples left by the events and people in each tale and this was surprisingly pleasing. There were some really nice touches, like the alien who seeks out the daughter of a woman who was with his partner’s oldest friend when he died. Because he couldn’t look out for the friend, he looked for any connection he could find to try and help someone connected to his lost partner. It was quite touching.
More disturbing were some of the ways in which humans bargained with their lives to escape Earth. There’s the woman who is willing to host alien larvae in a few years’ time. The larvae will kill her, but at least she’ll have those few precious years off Earth. There’s the artist who defiles his body over and over again just to be allowed to visit the wonderful planets and alien cultures out there. The sports players who endure broken bones and even temporary death for the chance to play in the major leagues and get off Earth for the few short years their careers last. This is not a happy future for most of the human race, it’s a desperate struggle to overcome the inferiority granted by being born a human on an alien-controlled Earth.
That’s rather the point, isn’t it? With ‘Planet For Rent’, Yoss is sending out a warning that we need to look out for the planet and look out for each other before someone else turns up and decides they can do it better. Yet while he may be sending a message with this book, by golly he paints an amazing picture in the process. This is an incredibly detailed vision of the future which takes many familiar settings and morphs them into almost unrecognisable twisted versions of themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and if this is the quality of Science Fiction coming out of Cuba at the moment, then I certainly hope more translations appear for the non-Spanish speakers among us.
(pub: Restless Books. 272 page paperback. Price: $15.99 (US), £10.99 (UK). ISBN-13: 978-1-63206-036-5)
check out website: www.restlessbooks.com