Next Stop, Paradise
by Sue Civil-Brown, contemporary (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81180-4

As a die-hard fan of the indie romantic movie Next Stop: Wonderland, I'm not at all pleased with this book's cheap bastardization of a title. Next Stop, Paradise is actually a form of false advertizing, though. This is not a whimsical tale of the meeting of lovers as preordained by fate and destiny. This is a cute, very funny attempt at recreating a romance, cheeseball science-fiction/fantasy style, ala movies like Evolution, Independence Day, Godzilla, and a lampoon of the TV series The X-Files.

And chalk my high grade of this book as a definite bias on my part: I'm a sucker for this genre. And I'm a sucker for Next Stop, Paradise even if I realize the romance between cop Samantha "Sam" Bartlett and TV supernatural expose show host Derek Diche is skimpy and characterization is meagre. But I can't stop laughing.

And when FBI Agents Muldoon and Sullivan of the Z-Files just have to pop in, this book degenerates into farce soon enough, and I enjoy every minute of it.

It all started in the beach tourist spot Paradise, when they find a set of giant footprints on the sand. T-rex? Godzilla? Soon, there's a giant egg on the beach. What is going on? Derek, on a vacation in Paradise (he is visiting his aunt Mary), just has to poke his nose in. Sam, one of the local law enforcers, isn't pleased with this nosey parker's interference. She thinks Derek's a fraud.

In the meantime, the egg starts rumbling (or is it belching?) and glowing in the dark. Everyone starts panicking, the local (inept) Army guys are called in, and all sorts of farcical happenings ensue.

What gets to me (in a good way) the most is the knowing self-referential jokes to all the movies Sue Civil-Brown is poking fun at. Meanwhile, Sam and Derek just have to look around in bewilderment as people start making all sort of fuss, from saving the egg to welcoming the arrival of aliens onto Paradise. I must admit, the town of Paradise sometimes sound like a colony of the worst of the Trekkie/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter groupies, but what the heck, they're funny.

Sam and Derek's romance consists of banters revolving around the egg, and quiet times are filled with PG-13 shagging. Don't expect deep talks or even characterizations here as you won't find any. But that's okay, because it sort of fits in with the obligatory romance aspect of this type of cheesy fun sci-fi genre. If it is so easy to see Sam and Derek apart as well as together, hey, I can say the same of the main couple in Godzilla, Evolution, Mars Attack!, et cetera.

What I do find very disappointing (enough to prevent this book from getting a keeper status) is the very pathetic closure of the egg. Ms Brown, when you write about Godzillas and aliens, one better appear in this story. Why not go all the way in a story that requires already the suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader? Instead, what I get is a... well, a really disappointingly mundane closure. Now, if Mama Godzilla did come out of the sea to reclaim the egg...

Still, Next Stop, Paradise is fun at its hokiest, campiest best. If you're like me, a fan of the said genre of science fiction hokeyness, you may have a great time as much as I did with this one.

Rating: 89

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