Friday, 8 May 2009

Chris Godfrey: Britain's greatest space hero

My favourite book series as a teenager was the Chris Godfrey of UNEXA science fiction saga written by Hugh Walters.

As I reckon these books have been pretty much forgotten, I'd like to address the balance in the first of a weekly series. In looking at the saga, I'll poke a bit of gentle fun at some of the absurdities that were inevitable in a YA sf series that started life before man started to explore space. But for the record I adored these books as a youngster. I gather that the author died in 1993, and so these reviews are a belated thank you to Hugh Walters for the many hours I enjoyed reading about Brits in space.

Walters' series chronicled the British space program. In reality the British space program consists of a potting shed near Lossiemouth airstrip in which a lone odd-ball attempts to kill himself with two rockets strapped to his feet and a catherine wheel nailed to his hat. But in Walters' series it was so much more grand than that…

The series started with Blast off at Woomera. In this low-key and quite gritty book, written in the late 50s, plucky Brit scientists are hell-bent on ensuring that Britain is the first nation to send a man into space. They've managed to get some chimps into orbit but that's been the limit of their achievements. No matter how plucky they are, they can't build rockets that are big enough for a man. But down in a local school there's this ordinary kid, Chris Godfrey.

Chris is clever, and so bullied a lot. He's also rubbish at sport, and so bullied a lot. And he's small, and so bullied a lot. But that doesn't worry him as he always has his nose in a book. Then one day a scientist working on the small rockets that can only carry a chimp sees this small, clever but bullied kid and he makes an intriguing connection.

Now there might have been an important message there somewhere, but either way, Chris is whisked off to Australia. Once there, he foils a plot by some sneaky sabotaging Soviets and then he is blasted off into space for about five minutes. When he comes down, he's full of confidence and despite his small stature he is ready to become the greatest British space hero there's ever been.

Check back next week when Chris shoots for the moon.

1 comment:

Allison said...

Great review, shame the books are so hard to find these days, although they probably haven't stood the test of time!