Back Cover Text
Space heroes are usually macho and clever enough to discover an alien's weak
point then zap him into oblivion. Stuart is a high school drop-out
who is destined to spend the rest of his life laying carpets until
he stumbles across Brian's project. Suddenly, he finds himself
with a new job – working on a space station and exploring a
distant galaxy. Will his adventures saving an alien race give him
the weapon he really needs – the courage to overcome his
inhibitions? And, will he ever tell Brian how he really feels
Sometimes, one has to go the long way round just to
find what is right in front of him.
Enjoy this romp across the cosmos as Stuart and
Brian, and even Stuart’s dad, discover more than little green men
in THE LONG WAY ROUND by PETER APPS.
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Publisher: TAU Publishing UK
Paperback: 221 pages
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"The explosion knocked Brian off his feet. Briefly, he feared that
the bunker would come crashing down on top of him, but apart from
a thick coating of cement powder and dust that had accumulated
since it had been built, nearly seventy years ago during World War
II, it suffered no real damage.
As his world settled down again, he opened his eyes and was
relieved that his sight was slowly returning. Hopefully, the flash
had done little lasting damage. His face stung from the heat
generated by the blast, and he wondered how he would explain the
redness around his eyes, which were subjected to exposure through
the slit hole in the bunker.
Shaken, but with no obvious injuries, his mind switched back to
his project. Struggling to his feet, he stumbled to the eye slit
only to find that the clear plastic that now filled the slit had
been burnt black.
The Geiger counter showed no signs of radiation, so he cautiously
opened the door at the rear of the bunker. There was still no
reading on the meter as he stepped outside. The world seemed
reassuringly normal. He could even hear birdsong above the ringing
in his ears while a cool breeze stroked his cheek.
He turned to look at his workshop. It had vanished. It had been
built against the bunker so that the interior of the workshop
could be observed through the observation slits, but all that was
left now were charred pieces of wood scattered around and a column
of smoke climbing high into the sky. As Brian moved closer to the
point where his equipment had once been, the needle on his
radiation meter moved, but there was still no real danger. Some
molten beads of metal were definitely radioactive, but he would be
able to hold them in his hand for at least ten minutes before they
became any sort of health risk.
"Maybe I should stop that from happening again," he muttered to
himself thoughtfully. "It could have been serious".
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Such is our insatiable wonderment at the ever more extraordinary
possibilities that science fiction can offer us that we forget
that, if extra-terrestrial life exists, it may be not too
dissimilar to our own.After all, if we are talking about other
carbon-based life forms, it is not such a great leap to imagine
that alien beings have developed along paths recognisable to
humans, both physically and in terms of thought processes.
These are the sorts of beings that Peter Apps describes in his
first novel, The Long Way Round
. In the two alien worlds
that his protagonists visit, the inhabitants, while very different
from humans,share the same range of needs, motivations, fears,
reasoning processes, shortcomings and strong points as their
Earthling guests. In contrast to many intergalactic forays, these
encounters involve mutual understanding, exchanging knowledge with
one another, acceptance,respect and assistance.
And it is not only the aliens with whom we empathise. The space
travellers in The Long Way Round
could not be further
removed from their Hollywood superhero counterparts. This is not
to say,however, that they are not faced with daunting challenges.
Even the detailed descriptions of coming to terms with a
zero-gravity environment in the space station and how this affects
their orientation when back on Earth indicates the enormity of the
leap they have to make, giving a radically new perspective their
mundane home lives.
The man behind the mission is Brian, a self-taught genius who
dreams of finding humanoid life on other planets. He beavers away
in his back garden in rural England until he finds a way of
building a portal that gives him access to anywhere in the
Universe. He takes as his assistant Stuart, a bright but
academically under-achieving 18-year-old with adead end job in a
carpet shop. Stuart’s father, Richard, a mechanic, later joins the
Together they make it to Terzon, a planet in the Andromeda
galaxy,where the inhabitants are welcoming, despite their
obsessive reliance on logical reasoning, for fear that unbridled
emotions may lead to conflict. The Terzons point the team in the
direction of another planet, Baard’ Atcha, where civilisation is
at risk of collapsing because of the power thirst of the society’s
Elders and the fear that they impose upon the people there.
Parallels can easily be drawn between the situation in Baad’ Atcha
and that found in many totalitarian and dictatorial states on
Earth. Stuart’s solution provides a template for dealing with many
of these problems, based on discreet empowerment of the
inhabitants so that they can learn to improve their lot
independently and with the support of the oppressed masses.
Running alongside this is another struggle of more human and
personal proportions. Both Brian and Stuart are gay and have
fallen in love with each other but are afraid to admit it.
However, the message to be gleaned from The Long Way Round
is that acceptance and tolerance is all and that when things are
looked at in the right perspective, barriers based on false
assumptions can often simply evaporate.
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foundation of old-school "Doctor Who," add some Douglas Adams, a
dash of E.M. Forster's "Maurice," a generous sprinkle of "Star
Trek" optimism, and stir ~ Peter Apps first novel reads a little
like the old-fashioned British sci-fi I used to devour from the
library as a teen, except I don't remember any of those having
two gay leads.
Maybe old-fashioned isn't the right description, given the queer
protagonists and some of the science, but it's a lot more
science based than the character-driven sci-fi I tend to read
these days. It took me a few chapters to settle into the very
masculine, logical style, and it's striking how little dialogue
there is. Despite that, the story is engaging, and the main
focus follows Brian and Stuart between 'real' life on Earth, and
the alien planets they discover.
The alien worlds is really where the "Star Trek" and "Doctor
Who" vibes came to the fore, as the book focuses on two
basically-humanoid planets with opposing planet-wide histories
that deliver a clear lesson about where humans might be heading
if we don't get a grip on global violence and power plays. The
author's evident belief in human potential sits a little oddly,
particularly with many of the decisions Brian makes. The
reclusive self-taught genius who brings the science to the
story, has strongly negative experiences of the mainstream
scientific community, and convinces everyone else involved that
if politicians or the military were to find out about his
inventions, they would be used only for ill. It's not that I
think Brian's wrong about that ~ it's just that other parts of
the book are so determinedly optimistic they were working
against each other at times.
The story isn't particularly character driven, but Apps does a
solid job of juggling the changing relationship dynamics between
Brian and Stuart, between Brian and the village locals, between
Stuart and his father, and Stuart and his friends.
It's good to find sci-fi where the main character's orientation
matters but isn't the sole driver of the plot, and the sexual
tension is nicely handled. When Stuart stumbles ~ literally ~
into Brian's experiments and is recruited as Brian's assistant
it makes perfect sense that he'd be cautious about revealing his
crush on his boss, whilst Brian ~ quite reasonably ~ worries
about taking advantage of his position, and about what Stuart
might think if he were to proposition his attractive young
assistant. All together it makes for a much more convincing 'we
both like each other but can never tell each other' situation
than many romances where that's the whole of the plot, and the
resolution is similarly soundly handled.
Overall, it's a little patchy, and the distancing style keeps it
from fully living up to it's humorous, action-packed blurbs, but
this is a thoughtful and interesting read.
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Sheppey Writer's Group
Starting with a big bang The Long Way Round has a beginning that
will take the reader to parts of the Universe. Like many Scifi
stories there has to be science, aliens and of course space
travel. We get all this and a little more. The twist is that the
bog standard Zap the freaks and save the world so often found in
many Sci fi stories is not there.This is a story that deals with
the ordinary, the matter of fact in a way that is quietly
The reader is waiting for the sudden disaster which calls on the
macho hero to rush in with all zap guns blazing. Instead the
action builds slowly to a tense finish and a realization that it
is ourselves we should be most afraid of. That the heroes are
gay, and like all characters in any story, have conflicting
emotions, difficulty dealing with relationships and eventually
coming to terms with their resolution is expected. The reader is
The author’s style takes the reader through the technicalities
of space travel using Brian’s amazing portal and if the method
reminds the reader of the Stargate series on television it is
only a brief memory.There is none of the grim, imperative,
Hollywood heroics about this story. In effect the portal is a
much more subtle way of dealing with rapid travel. In this story
it is the ordinary people who become the heroes.
The only criticism to made of the story is that the relationship
between the two young men could be steadily revealed as the
story progresses, and like many good stories, leave the reader
satisfied in finding out for themselves how well they had
understood the characters presented. However, the subject is
unusual and dealt with well and fora first novel a most
Review by James Apps