A Turn-Up for the Books

Scott Innes – Galactic Keegan (Unbound, 2020)

“Gerry’s body flopped onto the floor at an undignified angle like some kind of knackered ragdoll. I noticed his fly was half undone. He’d have been disappointed with that.”

Galactic Keegan is a new sci-fi comedy novel and that is, to my mind, the funniest line in it. Whether you find the contrapuntal mix of spacebound action and football manager talk funny will ultimately determine whether this novel is for you.

At first I thought it might be about a world cup in space (a worlds cup?), in mimicry of last year’s Space Opera (about an intergalactic Eurovision). In fact, the novel is relatively light on football games.

Instead, we see the remnants of Britain’s premier league scattered across the cosmos after Earth’s annihilation at the hands of the L’zuhl. Kevin Keegan, our plucky protagonist, is running a low-tier club out of the jungle world Palangonia.

When trouble comes, he has to put the footie a side and help humanity in it battle for survival.

The novel began life as a Twitter account, @galactickeegan, and its jokes are suitably punchy. Most are asides, reminiscences about Liverpool strikers pouring on the Old Spice after they hear the crowd singing “You Never Wore Cologne”. Others mash up well-known football characters – Joey Barton, Peter Crouch, Sir Alex, Glen Hoddle – with sci-fi tropes.

Hoddle, for instance, encourages the FA to adopt of a sin bin system, as in rugby, adding that players should also be benched for sins carried out in past lives. “He’s a screw loose, that man,” Kevin tells us.

The novel is fun and fast-paced. No in-depth football knowledge is required to get the humour either. For fans of Athletico Mince or the Hitchhiker’s Guide this is well worth checking out.

Joe Darlington

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