Published by Obsidian Sky Books in December 2020 and marketed as Volume 2 of The Brothers Jetstream books, Afro Puffs are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne takes readers on another non-stop psychedelic ride to places other science fiction works are afraid to go.
The protagonists’ race through the galaxy in the starship Aerie with the same ideology as the legendary Robin Hood and crew just as colorful. On the outside, observers might see a band of misfit women, but as readers slowly delve into this cohesive band, it becomes obvious that they are a tight knit unit able to take on any challenge, including your archetypical power-hungry galactic corporation.
The leader of this crew is Captain Desiree Quicho, a strong character with stoic resolve and our primary connection to the first book, The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan. Desiree is center stage in this journey as her husband Captain Luscious Johnny Smoove is off on his own galactic adventure along with Milo and Ramses Jetstream (Book 3, perhaps?). Rounding out the crew is former military Yvonne DeCarlo Paul, the afro puff owning NASA aerospace engineer Keita “Flowerpot” LaFleur, and the younger thrill-seeking Neon. Though the fast-paced narrative can be confusing at times, the crew’s clever wit and comfortable banter is what holds the team together and allows the reader to become fully invested in the story.
The easiest way to review a book is through comparison, most notably would be in parallels with vintage classics for which most are typically measured. But Claybourne’s unique writing style seldom mirrors others – unless he wants it to, and this typically comes in respectful nods and references of pop culture fiction scattered throughout the narrative and dialog.
The author does enter dangerous territory with allusions to iconic cultural elements such as Skynet, which expectantly relies on the reader’s recognition of the sentient computer in the Terminator franchise. Used too often, such imagery can weaken the timelessness we so often admire in classic science fiction. Don’t take this as a negative because the style does work well in this book. After all, Claybourne is the first writer I’ve reviewed who successfully used “Linda Hamilton” as an adjective.
Perhaps the most powerful cultural component can be found in the book’s preface where a soulful playlist of music relevant throughout the plot is posted. This accompaniment has works from artists like David Bowie, Prince, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and many more. A common practice for readers is to visualize the narrative with the minds eye as if the story is being played out on the big screen. So, when a soundtrack is already provided, the anticipation of a film adaptation is not out of the question. Of course, the first question would be, who will play Desiree?
A stand-alone adventure, you do not need to read the first book in Zig Zag Claybourne’s Brothers Jetstream series (previously reviewed here at Amazing Stories) to fully appreciate Afro Puffs are the Antennae of the Universe. A fun space faring adventure with plenty of familiar imagery set in a groovy world like no other.