Friday Reads: Terra by Mitch Benn

I follow Mitch Benn on Twitter. As you do, in these days of, what I believe the young people call, ‘social media’. One day, a couple of years ago he tweeted that he was in London and had a few hours to kill – did anyone have any suggestions as to what he could do?

‘Come to our offices and tell me about the SF novel you’re going to write for us’, I tweeted, half seriously, half jokingly. Of course at this stage I didn’t even know whether Mitch had the faintest interest in writing a novel, let alone whether he wanted to talk about it to someone he didn’t know from Adam.

‘OK, you’re on’ he replied. And so it began.

We met up, we chatted, it transpired that he was writing a novel, we chatted some more, he sent me a sample chapter, we met up again, talked some more, he sent me some more. I loved what I was reading and, in the end, after some four months of passing writing back and forth and talking, we brought the rights to TERRA.

TERRA, it became clear, grew from Mitch having become a father. He wanted a novel that his children could read one day, a novel that would express some of the things about being a father. And he’s done that, with immense charm, wit and insight. But he’s also written a novel about how it’s OK to feel that you are different. You might be alone, everyone else might feel very different to you but that doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. This is a very personal book, but that’s a very big SF theme. As is the theme of how alien we are and how human aliens might be.

And that’s the other thing about this book. It’s a wonderful story about a girl and her father but it’s also a fantastic SF novel, imbued with a passion for the genre (check out those part titles).

And did I mention the obvious? Mitch is known as a stand-up comic, as the writer and singer of those acerbic, triumphant songs on the Now Show. It should be no surprise that this is a very, very funny novel. There’s a sweet humour in it but also a rich seam of satire that mines both SF and the capacity of mankind (and aliens) to be quite ridiculously unaware of how foolish they are being.

TERRA is a wonderful novel from a name you may know already but which many more people are going to come recognise as belonging to a novelist.

Do let us know what you think of it on twitter (@gollancz @mitchbenn) and on our Facebook page.


I find myself the Associate Publisher of Gollancz with no clear idea of how I got here but fairly sure I enjoyed the journey. There was some college, a lot of bookselling and a bit of marketing along the way but that was a long time ago. I’ve been editing since 1991. I’ve always read SF, Fantasy and Horror but I’ve always enjoyed reading other stuff as well. I’ve published other stuff too but never had as much fun doing it as I have publishing genre books. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing; to the extent that I’ve been comprehensively ruined for doing anything else. Anything else may have got off lightly. I’m definitely more Arthur Dent than I am Takeshi Kovacs. But then if anyone in publishing tells you they’re like Takeshi Kovacs they are LYING.
  • Louise

    I’m so sorry for posting here, but I couldn’t find another link to where to send this to… I’m having some trouble trying to find Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris in the True Blood HBO cover. I can see on Amazon UK that it’s unavailable, but it shows the book to be in a large sized paperback… my other Sookie Stackhouse novels with the HBO covers are in the regular sized paperback (not the mass market,the one bigger) will Deadlocked not be available in the regular size with the HBO cover?

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