fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Prankster by James Polster

We’ve been Punk’d!

It seems that lots of the interesting stuff that happens on Earth is caused by Pom Trager, an arrogant time travelling alien who plays tricks on us and shows the results on his reality TV show called The Prankster. While humans think that significant historical events are happening, or that our culture is advancing, aliens on another planet are laughing at us.

When one of his tricks goes awry, Pom Trager gets trapped in Santa Fe. To escape, he needs to get to San Francisco fast. He gets some help from a human woman who thinks he might be crazy. Unfortunately, they attract the attention of a sheriff who decides to pursue.

The Prankster has a cute (though not original) premise, some adventure, one touching scene, and a twist ending that wasn’t all that surprising. It’s a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours if you’ve got nothing else to read (it’s a novella — less than 3 hours for the audio version I listened to). It’s good that it’s short because it’s written like a screenplay:

The music stops. Trager is now standing in a hallway. He’s wearing a button-down shirt, khakis, and is holding a few books. He glances around, waits briefly for some cute, then turns and looks straight ahead, directly toward the viewers. This time, he speaks… The trademark smirk emerges, he holds it, then moves off around a corner, down the hall, and stops at a door.

There’s a good reason why the story is written this way — it’s about a TV show, after all, and many of the scenes are being filmed — but, even so, it’s hard to engage with it. I feel certain that it would make a better movie than novella.

Luke Daniels, a favorite of mine, narrated the audio version which was produced by Brilliance Audio. That’s probably what I liked best about The Prankster — listening to Luke Daniels read to me for 3 hours.

The time I spent with The Prankster was pleasant enough, I suppose, but I’m sure I won’t remember it for long.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.