This week has seen author David M Barnett on a book tour flying between the online world of blogs & social media and the real life world of book stores, as he publicizes his wonderful book “Calling Major Tom”. You can meet David at The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley gateway to the Yorkshire Dales on Thursday 13th July from 7pm, if you are in the area!
I first wrote a book review at the beginning of the year ahead of publication and later recommended the book to my local book club as our monthly read. I would like to share my review with you again, before putting some questions from our book club to the author.
Warning: whilst the review does not contain spoilers, the subsequent questions might!
Book Review for Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett
I was given a copy of this book(ARC) from Netgalley via The Book Club on Facebook in exchange for a fair & honest review. All views are my own.
I challenge you, whether Bowie fan or not, to read this book without constantly having Space Oddity going round your head! Thomas Major is a lowly scientist working at the British Space Agency when he finds himself in a position to be the first man to visit Mars. The only thing is that it is a one way mission, but Thomas has his own reasons for wishing to leave his life behind & entering a self imposed solitude. Back on earth the Ormerod family are struggling to survive – teenager Ellie & younger brother James living with grandmother Gladys whilst their father is in jail. Ellie should be having the time of her life shopping & partying with her friends, but instead her mother has died, she is working 3 jobs, caring for her brother & worrying that social services will split them if they realise that Gladys has dementia.
It was difficult to see how these two very separate story lines could interlink and work, but they dovetail together beautifully from the day that major Tom tries to call his ex-wife from space and Gladys answers the telephone. Their lives are linked through the most unusual series of events which see Thomas Major helping the Ormerod family overcome financial and social issues…and even come to terms with a few of his own demons.
I loved this book – it made me laugh and cry. The view from the space ship window is described so vividly that I could see it, and the personalities of the individual main characters brim with life. The comedy that the writer incorporated into the character of Gladys turns a sensitive situation into a human one. She made me laugh out loud. The back story for Thomas Major unfolds and he is surprised to find himself changing as his relationship with the family on Earth develops and makes him re evaluate. These people were very easy to identify with and I wanted to know what life had in store for them. Mr Barnett makes the reader care.
A feel good story showing the best in human nature without over sentimentality, and how communities can come together. An uplifting read that I give 5 stars.
Review also on goodreads, Netgalley & Amazon
Questions for the author
Who was the inspiration for the Thomas Major character?
Why space? And specifically Mars?
If Calling Major Tom were to be made into a film, who would you like to play Thomas Major? Matt Damon of The Martian fame?
The family dynamics between Gladys and her grandchildren are tangible – has David had first hand experience of dementia and if not where did he gain his insight for Gladys’s actions that made us laugh and cry?
Did Thomas see in the Ormerod family what had been missing from his own upbringing? Could he have ever moved forward from this if he had stayed on Earth?
When you started the book, did you intend that it would be so humorous?
I remember that at the end I felt it wasn’t particularly heartwarming because I didn’t see how Major Tom was going to survive on Mars. What did the author think would happen next – or is there a sequel?
And finally….the obvious – are you a Bowie fan?
Some of the comments from my book club included:
Just finished the book, laughed out load, and cried, loved it!
Not finding this easy and it is because I am not liking using the iPad to read. (Book club read it – at my suggestion – before available as a paperback book)
very quick read after the initial few pages…very funny..
General consensus was that we all really enjoyed it!
Answers to follow in Part 2
Available from 29 June in paperback, currently £5.59 and ebook £1.99 on Amazon
Calling Major Tom and also from your local bookstore (prices vary).
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