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Sheriff Of Yrnameer, The

by Michael Rubens
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • Publishing date: 04/08/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780307378477
  • ISBN: 0307378470


Amazon Exclusive: Seth Grahame-Smith Reviews The Sheriff of Yrnameer

Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into sixteen languages. Seth is also a film and television writer/producer, semi-frequent political blogger, and the co-Creator/Executive Producer of the new MTV comedy series, Hard Times. He lives in Los Angeles. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Sheriff of Yrnameer:

I like to imagine the night, sometime in the late 1960s (England, a castle--it was raining), when Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (brought together for, let’s say, a writers’ conference) met for the first time in front of a roaring fire (okay, it was snowing, not raining) and fell madly, deeply in love. I like to imagine that they laughed in the face of social convention (and God) and produced an illicit love child, who they named Michael Rubens for no reason in particular, and who inherited the most favorable genetic characteristics of each of his dads. Lucky, lucky, lucky bastard.

The universe of The Sheriff of Yrnameer is our own, albeit somewhere down the line, after Earth has been reduced to a pile of irradiated rubble ("At least we got the terrorists" reads the commemorative plaque). Capitalism has run amok, and corporations are king. The Yrnameer of the title (a contraction of "Your Name Here"), is the last unsponsored planet in the galaxy--an agrarian utopia where artistic expression and humanism are cherished ad nauseum. Into this idealistic paradise is thrust our hero, Cole--a hilariously ineffectual space rogue on the run from a nasty creditor (is there any other kind?) named Kenneth. Having dealt with a few major fiascos (a cargo hold full of freeze-dried orphans; a corporate training satellite filled with bloodthirsty zombies), Cole eventually winds up on Yrnameer, only to find that a bandit has threatened the inhabitants with death if they fail to hand over this year’s harvest. Through a Blazing Saddles-worthy confluence of events, Cole is appointed sheriff: an accidental snake wrangler in the Garden of Eden.

There is a great big bucket somewhere (probably in Houston) from which all great sci-fi/comedy novelists drink. And though Sheriff will no doubt be compared (favorably) with both Hitchhiker’s and Discworld, Rubens really has his own thing going here. There’s the standard stuff, the stuff you’d expect in a top-tier genre novel--the richly textured universe; the hapless, oft-misbehaving protagonists; the perpetually amusing adversaries--but Rubens’s sense of humor (which tends toward the absurd) seems more biting and incisive than that of others currently milling about near the bucket. In fact, as you flip the final page you might find you’ve learned more about our own world than Yrnameer. Plus, there are zombies in it--so it’s automatically awesome.--Seth Grahame-Smith

A Q&A with Michael Rubens

Question: What in the world is Yrnameer, and how do you pronounce it?

Michael Rubens: It’s pronounced "YURnuhmeer," and it’s a contraction of "your name here"--a dismissive, slangy term for a planet that doesn’t even have a corporate sponsor ("oh, that planet? It’s just some yrnameer."). In the book, there’s only one unsponsored planet left, the Yrnameer, a legendary world said to exist in an unreachable location in space.

I actually nearly changed the title of the book early on--every time I told someone the proposed title I’d get the same reaction, and there's only so many times you can be on the receiving end of a frozen, polite smile before you start getting a wee bit worried...

Question: Why did you write The Sheriff of Yrnameer?

Michael Rubens: I think the original idea for the book grew out of noticing that all the sports stadiums now have corporate names. Branded planets seemed like the logical conclusion to the trend. From that came the idea of there being one planet left that was free from advertising and branding, and then a flawed hero to protect that planet...

I originally wrote a very simplified version of the story as a television pilot, but I never sent it out--partially because I thought that a pilot that made fun of advertising might not be the easiest to sell, but mostly because I grew very fond of the characters and didn’t want to lose control of them.

Question: Your hero, Cole, travels from InVestCo 3, where advertisements take up every square inch of available space, to Yrnameer, where there is absolutely no branding. Why did you choose to present these planets as polar opposites in terms of advertising?

Michael Rubens: Yrnameer is the mirror opposite of the crass, materialistic consumerism that has overrun the rest of the galaxy. It's a hidden, magical utopia populated by an abundance of gentle artisans and musicians and poets. In fact, one might say a slight overabundance. Sometimes you need fewer pan-species shiatsu practitioners, and more greedy, selfish semi-criminals who are comfortable sticking a gun in someone's face...

Question: One of the funniest parts of the book is when Cole and the gang explore a zombie-infested corporate seminar satellite, Success!Sat 1. Have you been to one too many dull training meetings?

Michael Rubens: As an employee of a large corporation I wish to stress that the views expressed in the book are in no way reflective of my own opinions of corporate life, particularly meetings and training sessions, from which I’ve derived and continue to derive a great deal of enjoyment and wisdom and personal fulfillment, and did I mention wisdom and enjoyment? And personal fulfillment? Really. They’re fantastic. Please pay no attention to the morse-code-like blinking of my eyelids.

Question: Peppered through out the book are references to some Sci-Fi heavy weights: Star Wars, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Have these always been favorites of yours? In what ways did they inspire The Sheriff of Yrnameer?

Michael Rubens: Those are indeed sci-fi heavyweights, and it's hard to write a humorous sci-fi book--one that's not a parody, but has elements of parody in it--without paying homage to those sources.

Question: What's next for you?

Michael Rubens: I'm currently working on a vaguely memoirish novel about the world's worst bar mitzvah.

(Photo © Rachel Been)

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  • A light-hearted and fun romp
    From Amazon

    Yrnameer is the last of the "Your Name Heres"--planets that haven't gotten corporate sponsors yet. It's pretty rare, so rare it's become a myth. Mentioning Yrnameer is a sure way to earn a laugh because it's a well known probability that Yrnameer, if it exists, is in some remote location; even if you wanted to reach it, you couldn't. Lucky for Cole--space pirate extraordinaire--he's just hijacked a spaceship on InvestCo3 with the coordinates for Yrnameer ready to program in and it's his next destination. Unfortunately, Cole has a few problems on his hands: Kenneth wants to lay his eggs in Cole's eye, his new crew wants to kill him, and bending space to reach Yrnameer won't be easy on a broken ship. Michael Rubens has written a hilarious satire from a studied understanding of how society uses and depends on advertising. Out of those depths comes a clever, witty, and uplifting story of survival and romance; action and hope; violence and zombie-turned corporate seminars. It's a book where the impossible becomes possible; humans can love aliens, Kenneth can survive pretty much anything Cole can throw at him, and it may just be Cole--the least likely candidate--who rises to the occasion and saves the day. The humor in The Sheriff of Yrnameer evokes something of Douglas Adams--a bit of the ridiculous juxtaposed against a plot that, despite its meandering (most likely because of it), is an enjoyable journey through the best and worst of humanity. Okay, maybe not that serious, but it is a lot of fun to read. There's so many tongue-in-cheek comments, you wonder if sometimes you didn't skip past a few to get to the next point of dialogue. For instance, there is a moment I almost missed where Cole sits in a room filled with "the faint radioactive glow coming from the commemorative chunk of Earth in its crystal cube, inscribed with the famous quote from the Administration. AT LEAST WE GOT THE TERRORISTS, it said" (p. 24). Just in case you were wondering what happened to Earth. It seems almost no one is safe from Rubens' sharp wit and keen eye for exploitation. Artists suffer a small blow when a jail functions as an art installation, corporate employees turn into zombies, and if advertising were suddenly gone, we'd probably be just as stupefied and confused as Cole. While the humor is strong and the jokes are punctuated by their unassuming deliveries, the characters are also dynamic enough to be believable. If John Scalzi has taught me anything, it's that a book can be fun and contemplative--Michael Rubens has definitely developed a talent for this, too. I was even pleasantly surprised with how Rubens treated the romance between Cole and--well, I won't spoil that for you. Trust me, though, when I say that the unexpected is the norm and he doesn't play into predictable conventions. It's part of the charm of the novel. It's also one of the many, many benefits to reading this, alongside calorie loss induced from laughter and an increased rate of concentration from Rubens' gripping prose (really, I'm not lying--you won't want to put this book down). One of my favorite characters was Joshua. Joshua undergoes an alarming transformation throughout the course of the novel--a funny example of what exposure to guns, violence, and a not-so-reliable mentor can do to a young, sheltered, impressionable boy. From the moment you meet Joshua to the point where you first realize hey, he's not so sweetly innocent anymore, is something of an eye-opener to Rubens' talent for comedic timing and character development. Nora was another favorite, mostly because she's a great foil for Cole and, like everyone else, has fun watching him make a fool of himself and has no problem pointing it out in the most embarrassing and sarcastic ways. I'm incredibly lucky to have read this book. I feel bad for saying it, but until Suvudu's Holiday Extravaganza Sweepstakes (ok--until I won this book as one of the prize packs and it showed up on my doorstep), I'd never heard of Michael Rubens, much less his book, The Sheriff of Yrnameer. Clearly I'm not hanging around in the right circles. If it's obscure, it shouldn't be because really, a book with this many nods to "Star Wars," The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and 2001: A Space Odyssey--among others--deserves a spot on your shelf next to all of those. The Sheriff of Yrnameer isn't for everyone. The humor alone eliminates readers with other, more narrow tastes (or is this humor the narrowly defined type?). You should also not expect a terrible amount of world-building. Rubens tosses his readers into the story in media res and you either swim along with the tide or get lost and drown. There's a lot the reader has to pick up and buy into. The novel hinges on your ability to believe in the ridiculous and believe in it quickly. I think this book deserves to be read by more people--it's a great gem as long as you don't expect to read something too serious. It came to me at a difficult time in my life recently. When our kitty was sick and cozied up to my lap for the last time to read with me, it was with this book. It should be noted she approved, albeit the page turns at times made her jump. I might have been a bit too enthusiastic to progress into the narrative, but it helped distract me and cheer me up intermittently in the days leading up to and those that followed her sudden death. The Sheriff of Yrnameer will always have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. It's worth the read. Don't pass it up! Thanks Suvudu, and thank you, Michael Rubens (who, in addition to writing a fun book, sent me a kind private message on GoodReads mentioning how nice it was to know that Jawas read, too. Yes they do, Michael Rubens. Yes they do).

  • A fun, satirical, page turner
    From Amazon

    I hate to admit it, but sometimes I choose books by their cover. This definitely has an eye-catching cover, but the inside is what really got me. The comedy is quick and sharp as knife. Backed up by compelling characterization, the narrative is suspenseful and graceful. Great work Michael, let's talk about making a movie.

  • Interesting journey through commercialism
    From Amazon

    Story was interesting but some chapters were hard to follow as they seemed to be a slightly different story line and didn't flow as easily as the others did. The chapters that actually included Cole and Kenneth were better, than when the two main characters were missing. However, if it wasn't for my local NPR station interviewing the author, I never would have heard about the story, and this prompted me to purchase the book.

  • More like "The Fifth Element"
    From Amazon

    I purchased this book after the Philadelphia Inquirer praised Rubens as a worthy successor to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. But Rubens had far to go before reaching those exalted heights. Characters are 2-dimensional, written to move the plot rather than the other way around. Which is why I was reminded more of the movie "The Fifth Element" than Hitchhiker's Guide or Discworld. It isn't a lame sci-fi book, I've read much worse. But Rubens has to start writing three-dimensional characters if I'm going to care about them enough to buy another "Sheriff" book.

  • Trying to be Douglas Adams
    From Amazon

    I really wanted to like this book but I was distracted because the style and humor is so like Douglas Adams, but unfortunately no way near as funny as Douglas Adams. The other distraction was that the book seemed to be written in mind with making a movie. The writing has some good qualities, hopefully the author will find his own voice.

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