|Ted Butler crafts classic boys"
sci-fi tale with his first novel - By D. Roberts
fans of science fiction will of course recall that prominent author
Robert Anson Heinlein wasn't known just for his adult works. The
award-winning author of the classic ``Stranger in a Strange Land''
wrote a series of 12 ``juvenile novels,'' in addition to a number of
short stories for Boys' Life, the official magazine of the Boy
Scouts of America.
Heinlein's novels, both juvenile and adult,
often dealt with militaristic themes -- Heinlein himself served as a
lieutenant in the Navy -- and the book considered to be his finest
example of ``hard'' sci-fi, ``The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,''
concerned the fight for independence by a colony of lunar
Local author Ted Butler's first novel, ``2176: Birth of
the Belt Republic,'' shares a spiritual symmetry with the classic
Heinlein juvies, including a boy thrust into the adult world, a
strong military sensibility and rebellion against oppressive forces.
Butler, too, served in the military, working with heavy ground radar
in the Air Force.
In Butler's book, 16-year-old Gil Klanz is a
student at a high school in a space colony. Gil and his friends
carry out a prank against their principal that goes wrong and ends
up with Gil expelled and his mother fired from her job.
stroke, Gil has lost his cushy existence and his academy
scholarship. He takes a blue-collar job, where he finds it necessary
to defend himself constantly against locals who don't take kindly to
The young hero, desperate to prove himself, risks his
own life on a rescue mission and returns to some small measure of
respect from the settlers. On his return, though, Gil finds the
settlers banded together in rebellion against the oppressive and
decadent regime of the Belt Corporation. Gil uses his wits and
charisma, overcoming the enemy and becoming a leading figure in the
newly made Belt Republic.
Throughout the book, Butler employs
themes that will be familiar to most readers of science fiction.
Teen boys are the most likely to appreciate ``2176,'' as they
identify with Gil as he rises into service, putting the needs of the
many ahead of his own. Yet Butler, in his first novel, has not
offered any female characters worth note. Gil's mother, described as
a competent doctor, is barely present and her character, who starts
out as an intriguing surrogate mother figure, spends much of the
book's third act unconscious. Teen girls, therefore, even fans of
the genre, likely will not find much to keep them
Indeed, Butler has written a classic boys' novel, in
which circumstances propel the protagonist from childhood to
maturity, seemingly overnight. This archetype has been used by many
authors and in many genres, including authors such as Charles
Dickens (``Great Expectations,'' ``David Copperfield'') and Mark
Twain (``The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn''). ``2176: Birth of the
Belt Republic'' might take place in outer space, but its themes will
resonate beyond fans of science fiction.
Butler's first novel
also is the first in his ``Belt Republic'' series. According the
publisher, four have been completed; the second, ``Menace Beyond the
Moon,'' has been printed; and the author is working on the
`2176: BIRTH OF THE BELT REPUBLIC'
* By Ted Butler
Young adult/Science fiction
* Blue Works, $14.99
Fans of Ted Butler's ``2176: Birth of the Belt
Republic'' also might enjoy:
* The Foundation series, Isaac
* ``David Copperfield,'' Charles Dickens
Forever War,'' Joe Haldeman
* ``Starship Troopers,'' Robert A.
Last modified: March 14. 2006