Book Reviews

A Swift Kick to the Thorax

When space poachers release Earth animals on an alien world, threatening a fragile new alliance, they anger the wrong people. A veterinarian, an accountant, and a furious sign-language-fluent gorilla are coming for them. Robin enjoys being one of the only humans around; an exotic outsider, strange and tall, with no shell and only two arms. Consulting for locals who want to keep Earth pets is a fine job. But when a swarm of rabbits invade town and humanity is blamed, everything unravels. If Robin wants to save the alliance between two planets—and keep from getting sent home in disgrace—she has to prove that a powerful crime ring is behind the crisis. Luckily for her, she makes friends who are eager to help: from planetside, the nearby space station, and recently escaped from the poacher’s ship. Those poachers may be bug aliens with an excellent range of vision, but they won’t see this coming.

I have to hand it to Mara Lynne Johnstone: she has a knack for crafting book titles that grab the reader’s attention and make them grin as they wonder what magic is contained beyond it. Like Spectacular Silver Earthling before it (a book that was every bit as wonderful as its title suggests—you can read my review here), A Swift Kick to the Thorax’s title perfectly sells the tone of the book. And, once again, this book is every bit as wonderful as its title suggests.

When the opportunity to review A Swift Kick to the Thorax came up, I leaped at the chance. It’s a book by the author of Spectacular Silver Earthling, so I was hoping for great things. I must confess to some mild disappointment that it wasn’t a sequel to Spectacular Silver Earthling and I wouldn’t be following Hubcap and his crew on more misadventures, but that was short-lived. A Swift Kick to the Thorax is just as entertaining as a sequel to Johnstone’s previous novel would be, possibly even moreso.

Like Spectacular Silver Earthling before it, A Swift Kick to the Thorax is set at some point in the future, where humanity has taken to the stars. But rather than featuring a television crew filming a wildlife series about creatures unknown to man, it instead follows a veterinarian, Robin, looking after Earthling animals that have been transported to a planet she resides on. Despite the similarities in featuring humans on an alien world with a focus on animalia of some description, the author tells a completely different story. This time, after a swarm of rabbits invades the planet, Robin must get to the source of the outbreak, a failure of quarantine that humans are blamed for, that threatens Earth’s fragile standing in the interplanetary alliance. It shares the same sense of humour and tone as Johnstone’s previous novel, and if you’re a fan of that, you will love this. While featuring different characters and planets, it is easy to see both books fitting within the same universe.

At 256 pages in paperback (or an estimated 260 swipes on your favourite eReader), A Swift Kick to the Thorax has a sense of freewheeling fun. Reading the book is an absolute joy from start to finish, and it gives the distinct impression that the author had an absolute joy writing it. This joy is absolutely infectious, ensuring the reader’s smile stretches from ear to ear, only subsiding once they reach the end of the tale. The story is packed full of PG-rated humorous situations, great characters and witty one-liners, and brings them about in a thoroughly entertaining way that feels natural, ensuring it doesn’t break the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

A Swift Kick to the Thorax isn’t a particularly long novel, but the book doesn’t suffer for it. The length feels perfect for the story Johnstone is telling and the tone she tells it with. It quickly sets the scene and introduces the world, and soon introduces the threat of a lone rabbit out in the wild. From there, the plot ramps up into high gear, with plenty of fun twists and turns. Throughout this, the author introduces readers to an alien landscape and plenty of alien races (particularly Rockbacks, affectionately referred to as turtledillos by humans, thanks to their resemblance of a cross between a turtle and an armadillo. The book uses its space well, and gets through quite a bit, ensuring that it keeps the reader entertained without ever outstaying its welcome.

The prose throughout the novel is (predominantly) written in the first person perspective, courtesy of its point of view characters. The majority of these belong to its protagonist, Robin, with fellow human Jacinta and turtledillo Zephyr also narrating a number of chapters. Even a gorilla named Dragon, who communicates only by sign language narrates a few chapters, albeit in the third person. While the Dragon chapters set themselves apart from the others due to his third person narration and short, blunt sentences, each point of view character has their own unique voice which adds to the flavour of the story.

While a number of other characters feature throughout the book, and they’re all engaging, the four point of view characters fare the strongest, thanks to the focus being on them. Each of these characters are a joy to follow, with their different quirks. The characters all play off each other beautifully, with plenty of wit to go around, whether it’s within the narration, or the dialogue, in which characters bounce off each other brilliantly. A Swift Kick to the Thorax also includes some LGBTQI+ representation, mentioned in passing in a way that works for the characters, without being the focus of who they are.

A Swift Kick to the Thorax is a book written with one express purpose: to entertain the reader, and it does so from beginning to end, without letting up. The book constantly amuses with its situations, its plot and its characters, while still telling a story where the reader is invested in the stakes. Through all the humour, Johnstone introduces readers to a great science fiction world that is entertaining to explore. The elements come together beautifully in a tale that is pure, unbridled fun.

Favourite Passage

When the escape pod shot away from the ship without exploding, my first thought was Hooray, I’m not dead. My second thought, which occurred to me as I sat up, was Where the hell is this pod going?

A Swift Kick to the Thorax, Chapter 16

A Swift Kick to the Thorax was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

A Swift Kick to the Thorax is available in both physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).

Note: I do not post scores for reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

You can follow Mara Lynn Johnstone online, via:

Interested in purchasing A Swift Kick to the Thorax?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

A Swift Kick to the Thorax

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