I’ve got a new ARC to review today: Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett. I received this ages ago and it took me a while to finally finish it, but I really liked it! The paperback is released in June this year, but it’s already available as an eBook.
We all know someone like Thomas.
The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.
Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.
But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world
CALLING MAJOR TOM is a heart-warming and ultimately life-affirming story of a man who has given up on the world… but discovers in the most unlikely way that it might not have given up on him.
Review: Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett
I couldn’t wait to get started on this book when I received it. If you’ve read a few of my posts where I talk about space (examples here, here and here), you might know that I LOVE IT. It’s terrifying to think of how endless it is, but insanely cool at the same time. So when I read a brief summary of the book and saw the cover, I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. (Just look at the cover! It’s beautiful!)
Calling Major Tom follows Thomas Major, a man who works at BriSpA, a fictional British space agency. He meets the first British man who is going to fly to Mars. But when the man suddenly can’t go (I won’t tell you why – spoilers!), Thomas Major is suddenly thrown in his place. It’s the day of David Bowie’s death, so naturally, he becomes famous around the world as Major Tom, floating in his tin can to Mars.
Thomas Major hasn’t had the best life so far, so he can’t wait to get away from Earth. He can think of nothing better than sailing away to Mars on a solo mission. But then he accidentally contacts Gladys, an old lady from Wigan, England, and somehow gets caught up in the lives of her whole family – and they change each other’s lives in ways none of them could ever imagine.
Annoyingly, it took me at least a third of the book to really get into it. I was a bit confused about what was going on, who everyone was, and where the story was going. The perspectives kept changing (which I usually love) but it was confusing – I didn’t know who was who, or where the chapter was set. At one point, I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for at least a few weeks. I just had no motivation to read it because it didn’t grab me, and I was a little disappointed. But I decided to pick it back up and power through it.
I was so glad I did.
My Calling Major Tom Epiphany
I’m not sure what happened, but at some point in the middle of the book, it just all clicked into place. Once the characters and places were properly introduced and the story’s rhythm got going properly, I really got into it. I couldn’t put it down and I read it all in a few days!
I started to love the characters, and I really wanted them to succeed. The rest of the story had me gripped and I really enjoyed it. Okay, it was a bit far-fetched in a lot of places (I only realised this when I explained the whole plot to my mum), but I didn’t care. Sometimes you need a story that is crazy, fairly lighthearted and definitely a lot of fun. There were a few elements that I narrowed by eyes at in confusion. (Like why was he going alone to Mars? And it all seemed very much like The Martian by Andy Weir, even in the descriptions of what he had to do, etc. But this wasn’t too much of a big deal because I really love The Martian.) But overall, I really liked the story!
The Main Characters
Thomas Major was a confusing character to begin with. I didn’t know if I liked him or not. He seemed grumpy and unexcited by everything. But as I learned more about his backstory (some of it tragic), I started to learn more about why he’s so troubled. He probably has some of the biggest character developments in the whole book.
Bless her. Gladys is accidentally phoned by Thomas Major when he’s trying to get through to his ex-wife. She quickly became one of my favourite characters. She’s feisty, sarcastic and witty – and also a bit of a batty old woman. I couldn’t help but love her!
Ellie is the backbone of the Ormerod family. Her dad is in prison, so it’s only her, her grandmother and her little brother James, so she has to keep the family afloat. She’s 15 but she has 3 jobs as well as attending school. I felt so sorry for her – she’s so young with a crazy amount of responsibility. She doesn’t make some of the best decisions, but who can blame her? She always has what’s best for her family at heart, and I ended up really admiring her.
To be honest, I was a bit confused about Ellie’s 10-year-old brother James for a while. I had no idea how old he actually was! The way he speaks is so adult, and he definitely didn’t sound 10. But like the rest of the characters, I learned more about him as the story went on, and really liked him. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of Ethan from Relativity by Antonia Hayes. They’re both young science nerds, and incredibly smart. I think this is why I liked James so much, because I really loved Ethan!
Despite a shaky and slow start, and a few times when I was a bit confused, I really liked this book! Okay, the story was a bit over-the-top in some places, but it was so much fun. There wasn’t too much suspense and it was a nice easy read. If you want a lot of Bowie references and a feel-good book that will tug on your heartstrings, read Calling Major Tom!
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