Summer of Space Opera Sampler from Tor.Com

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I am a big fan of the Space Opera genre, although what actually constitutes a space opera as opposed to a run of the mill sci-fi book is a bit unclear to me. I think it needs more than one volume, a large cast of characters and conflict. I looked at Wikipedia’s definition and I was close:

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, as well as chivalric romance, and often risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology.

So earlier this year Tor.Com offered a Summer of Space Opera Sampler I snapped it up. It has five excerpts from pending or just released longer stories. All Systems Red:The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, Killing Gravity:The Voidwitch Saga by Corey J. White, The Ghost Line: The Titanic of the Stars by Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison, Starfire:A Red Peace by Spencer Ellsworth and Acadie by Dave Hutchinson.

 

Two of the excerpts have a very old school feel to them.  Starfire combines swords with blasters, a combination that I have always felt only works if you are a Warhammer 40K fan. I just find it hard to believe that a futuristic society would have space ships, space weapons but also armies fighting with swords. Aside from that I liked the dual plot lines that were introduced in the story. In one a cross breed human has defeated the pure human empire and is now pondering pogrom on the remainder of pure humanity. Also there is a mixed breed pilot who is being kidnapped to carry some pure breeds off planet.

The second old school story, The Ghost Line has to do with a ghost ship and a crew hired to possibly salvage it. Their mysterious employer is not entirely clear about their goals. Taking place in the not too far future it could almost be a side story from the world of The Expanse. Slow ships from Earth to Mars, Belters mining asteroids etc… Had a very strong feel from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and I enjoyed it a great deal.

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The third story (chronologically) was my favorite. Called Acadie, it’s about how some brilliant genetic engineers fled earth and started moding their bodies. While the topic in the book, Earth’s continual search to capture and punish these people, called Makers, the scene where the council is meeting is very funny. The sample gives a very good history of what happened previously and the challenges facing the Makers and the others that live with them when it looks as if Earth has finally found them. I will probably purchase the entire story when it is available; I liked both the humor and the dilemma.

All Systems Red reads as a detective story in space. Who is out to sabotage a project on a lonely planet? Can the assassin android, with a newly but secretly disabled governor, help solve the issue? The premise is interesting and the android is an almost instantly interesting yet complex character, it leaves you at a cliff hanger and makes you wonder, always a good thing.

The last in the excerpts, Killing Gravity, was probably my second favorite. It throws you in the action without a data dump and then slowly feeds you a lot of information in a smooth measured manner. The concept of PSI and other powers being taught to humans and used in space has a lot f interest as a plot device and it is interesting to speculate where the story is going.

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It should be noted that these are just a few pages from short stories. None of the tales that the samples come from tallies much over 200 pages and most are in the 160 range.

All Systems Red is a Kindle single available for $3.99, or $10.39 in paperback, 160 pages. Starfire: A Red Peace is in pre-order mode at $4.99 on Kindle and $11.66 in paperback, 210 pages. The Ghost Line is also a Kindle single available in that format for $3.99 and paperback for $14.97 at 146 pages. Acadie, another Kindle single is available for preorder at $3.99 or $7.60 for the print version with no page count (that I could find.) Killing Gravity, also a single, is $3.99 for the Kindle version and $1039 in print, 176 pages.

The Silverleaf Chronicles by Vincent Trigili

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One of the many blogs and newsletters I read had a low cost offering for this book and that is something I can never resist. I would give a shout out to where I found it but I don’t recall at this moment (Might have been Tor). I had never encountered Trigili but looking at his page on Amazon he has been writing for quite some time.

I enjoyed The Silverleaf Chronicles (The Dragon Masters Book 1) and it was a fast read, but I thought that it had a number of flaws (or perceived flaws) that annoyed me. I should mention that what bothers me in one book I often do not notice in another so all complaints should be taken with a grain of salt.

The book follows a man named Silverleaf, who comes from one of the clans of the Forest People. They look just like humans but some of them are born to control dragons. However dragons went extinct centuries before and so the potential dragon masters slowly go insane. However when they go insane they also become frightening efficient killing machines as well. Silverleaf is a dragonmaster and has fled his home so that he does not inflict harm on those he loves.

As he wanders he reaches a small town and sets up work as a smithy to earn some money. While repairing a rare ax the town is invaded by a foreign army. The one strange thing about the foe is that they have armored, android like troops that have the ability to fire destructive beams from their arms and are mind controlled by humans. Much like the army in the classic bad movie Krull. In many ways the movie had an interesting cast with both Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane in supporting roles-I kid you not.

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Sadly no dragons

Silverleaf manages to fight his way out, accompanied by Kaylissa, the serving girl from the inn where he was taking his meals. He discovers that she is also from the Forest Clans and returns her to the clans, and then departs again.

The book chronicles their relationship as she follows and reunites with him and his battle with the madness. This is the strongest part of the book, but even here I think there is a problem. Silverleaf has been living as an almost feral animal, and was part of a wolf pack for a time. He no longer remembers his past and seems barely human. One quick battle and he is now a thoughtful teacher, helping Kaylissa on her way to beating the madness. Wow that was fast.

The world building is almost non-existent. No maps or sense of distance. You are told that once a vast civilization existed in that area yet no one seems to ever encounter ruins, aside from one impregnable fortress. Aside from this there are forests, a few isolated villages and a rumor of cities to the south.

That fortress, Drac’nor, is where all of the clans of the Forest People retreat at the first onset of the foreign army. The scenario where they decide to go does not ring true. Silverleaf meets the ruler of one of the clans. The leader asks what they should do. Silverleaf says retreat to the fortress. “Ok stranger that we have never met, we will follow your instructions and off they go with nary a word raised about abandoning their ancestral homeland.  It seems that many decisions in the book are made this way. No arguments raised. Also where do they get the food and other supplies when they are in the fortress? Once in the fort, they seem unconcerned about what the enemy is doing away from its borders.

Another odd item is that when Silverleaf comes out of berserker (madness) mode he is ravenous. Nothing odd about that, but it is that he says he needs simple sugars then roots and insects (basically carbs) before he goes on to proteins. All that was missing was a complaint against trans fats.

I did enjoy the writing and the portrayal of the main two characters. The book ends with a lot of unanswered questions and I am interested to see how the author resolves them. There are a number of interesting twists in The Silverleaf Chronicle and so I would expect there to be more in future books. I think that in hindsight the book was probably more targeted at a YA audience, which might explain some of my perceived shortcomings in the book.

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

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I was a huge Zelazny fan when I was younger and read a great deal of his work. I even went so far as to stand in line at the old Recycle Books in San Jose to get an autographed copy of Nine Princes in Amber. He crossed genres easily and I felt then and now that much of his work was way ahead of its time. So when I came across a copy of Jack of Shadows at a garage sale I snapped it up.

I had read the book decades ago but only had a faint memory of it, and a vague feeling of uneasiness about it. I could not put my finger on why prior to reading it and am still not sure why afterwards but I believe I have a better idea why now.

The world that it is set in is an earth that basically does not rotate. Half is always in sunlight and half in darkness. In the light section there is science and a mechanical world. In the dark there are ruling powers that have powerful magic at their command. The dark side keeps a shield in the sky that keeps the world as it is with magic while the daysiders have a mechanical shield. The people in the sun have souls and the people in the dark are immortal and will be reborn if killed. At the edge of these two areas is Shadow, an area that the titular figure inhabits, and where his power comes from. The world had a Dying Earth feel to it, but it is obvious that Jack Vance’s books were not an inspiration. You also get hints (in hindsight) of the powers and characters that will his Amber series, especially Corwin.

I really enjoyed the reread but I could clearly see why I had the unease when I was younger. When you are introduced to Jack, he is a cool character, just a master thief planning a job. When the plan goes off the rails he ends up struggling to survive (after being executed) and vows vengeance on all that have wronged him. And he brings off the vengeance with a flourish. At this time he becomes an unlikable character. His mistakes and arrogance start compounding problems and he has to take drastic measures to try and salvage the situation.

I think what had upset me was that when I read this, back when it was originally published, all of the heroes in books that I followed were basically good. Even a character like Conan, who off the pages looted, robbed and raped, was a chivalrous, almost do-gooder in the stories. Jack somewhat redeems himself, but not really. I think I was unprepared for a character like this at the time, and to a degree I still find it unsettling. Not that he did not reform but rather because I still somewhat liked him.

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I think that since I really enjoy Zelazny’s writing style and the imagery that he presents it is time to revisit other books that he has written. I think that Lord of Light, which won the Hugo in 1968, will be on my need to read soon list.

Far Away and Long Ago by William H. Hudson

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Reading a recent issue of The Smithsonian I read an article on William H. Hudson. I had never heard of him but he was a prolific author and a famous English/Argentine ornithologist who grew up on a plantation in Argentina during the 1840s and 1850s. In the article it talks about his autobiography about his childhood years, Far Away and Long Ago: A History of My Early Life. I found it interesting that amid the praise for the book that it was also a text used to teach children in Japan English. I suppose much like Caesar’s Commentaries are used to teach Latin, or was at one time.

I just have to say what a delight the book was. While written when he was 77 and the first draft started when he was fairly ill, it resounds with childhood’s innocence and wonder. I cannot recall a childhood autobiography that I have enjoyed more, although Little Britches  by Ralph Moody comes very close. The book kept reminding me of many things from my childhood which was odd since there is no parallel. It is just that Hudson manages to maintain the joy of discovering new things every day and project it to the reader.

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Growing up on the plains he was a small and shy child, in love with the outdoors and all that lived in it. While birds are clearly his first love, everything in nature seemingly fascinated him, flowers, plants, trees, mammals and so on. Without formal education he learned all about these things and their seasons. I was envious that at 6 he could identify so many birds simply by their call- all I can get right is a crow. One of my favorite stories in the book is how someone told him that if he put salt on a bird’s tale it could not fly. I wonder how old that joke is? The joy of childhood is also revealed in tales about his and his siblings loved how one neighbor laughed and another sang.

His life was anything but ordinary. Having a pony at age 6 and free to roam at will across the pampas by 8. Watching cattle and sheep drives, talking with old gauchos and witnessing them have knife fights. Having the remnants of a defeated army flow by his home. All through the books is a growing love of nature and most specifically birds, slowly at first and then with a growing admiration. His growth into reading and education as well as spirituality, and then subsequently questioning spirituality is very interesting, heartfelt and relatable.

Very rarely does he display cynicism that might have come with age but he does lament the loss of those days, and in part what he decries is the fact that the area where wild animals swarmed and birds flew is now plowed under to make way for corn fields.

One odd note in the book is that he never names his brothers or sisters, or his parents. His father is very rarely mentioned and his mother occasionally. His oldest brother obviously holds a very important position in his life, including a helpful push to be a naturalist, but is unnamed. I wonder why, as it does not sound like he disliked them, but I do get the impression that they were nowhere near as important as seeking a new bird or flower.

I am really looking forward to reading more of his writings. I found it incredibly approachable but I had to continually stop and look up what a bird or a plant looked like. His book about Patagonia particularly interests me.

The Crimean War by Orlando Figes

Crimean

Attacking my pile of decade old book purchases I came upon The Crimean War by Orlando Fige and decided that it was time for a change of pace in my reading habits. I am very glad I did so, it was an excellent read and filled in some interesting gaps in my understanding of world politics.

The book starts with a good introduction as to the causes that lead up to the war-the weakening of the Ottoman Empire, Russia’s determination to expand its influence in the Holy Land and Ottoman provinces and most of Europe’s’ distrust of Russia. It was eye opening to learn that in the Holy places in the Near East fights broke out among armed monks and others over which religion would have primacy.flash

Everything I thought that I knew about the Crimean War came from Flashman at the Charge by MacDonald Fraser. Not surprisingly since Fraser also wrote a good deal of history, the parts that he wrote about (aside from Harry Flashman) were very accurate. Included was the incompetence and disagreements of the leaders, the Thin Red Line, and the charges of both the Heavy and Light Brigades. However I had always carried the impression that the English were the primary power fighting and that their allies, primarily France, played a distinctive second fiddle.

Far from the truth. While the English, lead by Prime Minister Palmerston were advocates of a major war against Russian, primarily to defend English trade interests and possessions. However they were not really willing to put the resources into the effort, hoping to get allies to play a major part, which they did. The major victories of the war were achieved by France, and its leader Napoleon III ended up being shown as a shrewd negotiator. The overall ability and competence of the French really surprised me. All I really knew about Napoleon III was his invasion of Mexico and the disastrous war of 1870.

charge

I had forgotten about its successful invasion of Algeria and thus had an experience, battle harden core in its Zouaves. The military had portable canteens, bakeries, well planned out supply logistics and well staffed and intelligently laid out hospitals. The officers lived close to the men and capital punishment was mostly eliminated. Pretty much all of the opposite was true for the English. In combat they made most of the important gains and became the dominate partner in the allies.

The English, seemingly living off their reputation earned in the Napoleonic wars decades earlier, were to put it mildly, a mess. Corporal punishment was very common, the officers were distant from the men, both culturally and physically, living apart and enjoying a much better lifestyle in camp. Planning from the very senior level on down was almost entirely absent.

The Russians were also resting on their Napoleonic laurels and when faced with modern weapons and tactics failed. In part due to the backwardness of the country, couple with an autocratic leader who seemingly acted on a whim at times. Without a thought to the long term impact of his actions.

The Russians one true advantage was a huge numerical advantage, which was greatly offset by poor medical and logistical issues. Their casualties were between 400,000 and 600,00, compared to the English 28,000.  However they developed a method of battlefield triage that helped save lives that went above what Florence Nightingale did on the Allied side.

One issue that I would have liked was both better maps and have them presented throughout the book rather than at the start. It could be difficult to follow combat on specific days. Overall the Crimean War gives a very good overview of the causes of war, how it was fought, and the near term aftermath. It also shows the lasting impact that the war had on European relations that still affect the world today.

Fables of Ismeddin by E.Hoffman Price

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I have a friend who is a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft and his circle of writers and after discussing recent books we had read I recommended Karl Wagner to him and his counter recommendation was Edgar Hoffman Price, who had cowritten a story with Lovecraft.

Another Golden Age writer I have never heard of and one that seemed very prolific. I looked at a number of his offerings online and decided on the Fables of Ismeddin MEGAPACK from Amazon. I was a bit worried that the stories might have a strong racist tinge to them as some of Lovecraft’s do. I did not find that to be so. In many of the stories there are no real ‘heros’ in that there is some evil in all, but often it is the westerner that is the worst, such as in Well of the Angels.

There are a number of reoccurring characters and story styles, starting with the title character Ismeddin, a Kurdish holy man that is called a Darvish, an alternate spelling for dervish. Ismeddin is only in about half of the tales but is an interesting character.

dervish

Crafty, devout, wise, versed in ancient lore and an apparent practitioner of magic he is an interesting contradiction. He is also at times a caravan raider, horse thief, guide, advisor to travelers and Amirs as well as a man that deals with the devil. While looking down on the ruling class he often helps them maintain their thrones even when they are obviously cruel and corrupt.

Another reoccurring character is Bint el Hereth or Bint el Kafir, the daughter of Satan, a immortal seductress who entices men to their doom in a way that many men might be willing to follow. You will have to judge for yourself if she is evil or not.

There are a few historical fiction tales and several that does not feature Ismeddin and have westerners as their main focus. At first I was disappointed in this but a number of them are good tales.

I really enjoyed the stories and believe that they aged very well. A couple that stood out for me were Ismeddin and the Holy Carpet and the Girl from Samarcand, for very different reasons. The first shows the cleverness and resourcefulness of Ismeddin, and how quickly he can adjust to unexpected circumstances. The other, almost a ghost story, has a lot to say about day dreaming as well as the importance of hearing an entire conversation.

The stories reminded me in a way of a number of Robert E. Howard’s short stories set in the same area but there are major differences. The first is simply the era. Howard’s tales are mostly around the Crusades while Hoffman’s are primarily around the start of the 20th Century. Another major issue is that the hero in Howard’s stories are all European, while Hoffman’s are Kurds, Persians, Afgans and others from the nations around the Levant.

Hoffman wrote in a number of genres and there is both a Fantasy & Science Fiction as well as a Two Fisted Detective MEGAPACKS available that I will probably invest a buck on in the future. I wonder if his stories in those genres holds up as well?

Warship by Joshua Dalzelle

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After finishing Marines I decided to jump into another of the books I received from Discover Sci-Fi. This one was entitled Warship (Black Fleet Trilogy, Book 1) by Joshua Dalzelle.

On the face of it I was unsure if I would like it because it sounded so familiar. A disgraced captain, a ship under a cloud, untrustworthy commanding officers, a possible alien foe. Sounds like numerous other space operas such as No Honor in Death.

It started out as I expected but quickly took several surprising turns, but first a bit of background. The time is several centuries in the future and groups of nations have colonized numerous planets and each group has a space fleet, however there has not been an armed conflict for over two centuries. The Seventh Fleet, part of the Terran Confederate Starfleet forces, nicknamed the Black Fleet, is an aging, expensive archaic symbol of the past. As is Earth as the planet Haven is now the center of this alliance, with Earth a backwater.

Enter Captain Jackson Wolfe, looked down on because he is actually from Earth, the commanding officer of the aging destroyer Blue Jacket. The ship has become the depository of a number of troublesome and incompetent sailors in the fleet, but who only make up a percentage of the crew. Sent on a long patrol without the benefit of a proper refit, things change rapidly.

Jackson and the crew of Blue Jacket find a world on their patrol, formerly inhabited now with no cities and no sign of the former habitats on the planet. After that things get much more intense as they run into a giant alien ship.

There was a great deal I liked about the book. While it starts out with some standard Sci-Fi tropes it does a good job developing them. Worn out ship without enough spare parts, untrustworthy crew members, new staff, and contradictory orders, kind of the basic drill for many space operas. But things change, slowly at first and then at an ever increasing pace.

The captain is smart and clever but has his flaws. The other characters ring true with one exception. You see people learning and in some cases expanding with additional responsibility and in one or two becoming craven. The one character that did not ring true to me was Jackson’s commanding officer Admiral Winter, who seemed to have an almost pathological hatred for him that seemed to completely warp her judgment. It might have been nice to know why. Also she documents her dislike in videos and other communications which she must know in a modern electronic age nothing is likely lost.

The pacing was ok, starting slowly as the players and the universe are explained, with a not too onerous data dump. Then as the cruise starts some interesting things come afoot almost as soon as they leave dock. Somewhat changed orders from an interesting source lead to the discovery of the alien ship and the story really picks up speed.

I really liked the portrayal of the alien entity. So often they seem like characters that are just funny looking humans with the same relative technology. This was very different and I will be very interested to see how it and the humans continue to evolve their battle tactics against each other.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of the workings of the Blue Jacket. So often it seems like a ship will just jump from point A to Point B with basically a snap of the fingers. Here components have to be primed and then used in a specific order and it takes a good deal of time. I also enjoyed the battles as the Blue Jacket used a variety of weapons, all of which had strengths and weaknesses in their destructive power, how they could be employed and the distances that they were effective.

As the challenges grow so does the captain, who becomes more creative in his responses and also starts to listen to advice from the staff, some of whom had earlier lost some of his trust. Combat and a determination to prevent the alien from its perceived goal, rather than outright victory drive him.

I did think the finale, which is after the last battle, was pretty predictable, but also very enjoyable. This is a solid space opera and I plan to read the rest of the series in the near future.

The Guggenheim E-Books

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I have always enjoyed museums and visit them whenever I see one. I have visited some interesting ones in the US and abroad including the Carnegie Museum, a great small town one in Roseville, Calif. and the Bread Museum in Ulm, Germany, (one of four bread museums in Germany.)

However what little art history and appreciation that I might have once possessed has long since abandoned me. This is really not an issue when looking at Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist and many other art movements. It is when I hit the 20th Century that I am at a loss. It never occurs to me when I am at the library or book store to get a basic book that might explain what I am looking at and how art progressed to this point.

Enter the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. I am not sure where I found the link but the museum has a great offer for free e-books on art, and primarily on Modern art. There is little I like better than free books, ok, free anything is pretty great to be honest. More than 200 books and catalogs from shows are available including Picasso and the War Years and a number of books on different stages of Kadinsky’s career.

It is not all modern art as there are books on 5,000 years of Chinese art and the Aztec Empire to name others. As a bonus there is also a link to New York’s Museum of Modern Art that has a digital record of every exhibit held at the museum since 1929 that you can explore online.

Almost as important for me there is a short book, fewer than 50 pages, Elements of Modern Painting, on how to view modern art.  I hope that this will enable me to understand what is going on and that it is not just a black canvas.

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Mark Rothko no. 7 Mixed Media on Canvas

One caveat. The books have flaws from the scanning process. If you are familiar with digital books you might barely notice, but if not be forewarned that there might be odd symbols or space breaks in words. One book that I downloaded Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection: From Picasso to Pollock, appeared to be in some strange foreign language. However the price was right.

Marines: Crimson Worlds I by Jay Allan

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I saw an offer on Twitter for five free Sci-Fi books if I followed Discover Sci-Fi online. How could I pass up a deal like that? Of course one of these days I will sign up for something without reading the TOC and find I just purchased a time share that has a resident elephant.

One of the novels I received was Jay Allan’s Marines:Crimson Worlds I. It takes place a few hundred years in the future where the Earth, after a series of terrible wars the governments have united into seven superpowers that have expanded to the stars and have taken the strife with them.

The book chronicles the rise of Erik Cain, a street punk who becomes the fastest rising Marine of his generation, becoming a brevet general by the end of the book at age 35. While uneducated after 8 years old that is no problem, Marine boot camp is six years long and you receive the equivalent of a masters degree when you leave. Doing extremely well in his first combat assignments, in part by living, he moves up to the Marine equivalent of West Point and of course graduates top of his class. At West Point, AFAIK, everybody comes out a second lieutenant. But not Cain, he is jumped a grade. And so on.

Aside from my snark I did like the book but did not love it. The main character was kind of vanilla and until almost the end there is no other point of view. What I did like was Cain’s thoughts and feelings in combat, and having read a great deal on the topic when I was younger I felt that it really rang true. It was an easy read and at the end there is a section talking about the remaining superpowers. I liked that better than the usual info dump that books often use at some random point to catch you up on the back story. The Marines in part reminded me of the French Foreign Legion who swear fidelity to the legion not to France. The Marines are loyal to the Corp but drawn from and serving the Western Alliance. They have a strong esprit de corps.

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There were a number of issues that annoyed me. The AI and overall computer and communications systems seemed weak. No androids, cyborgs and very little automatic weapons on the ground? A single man is handling tactics of a vast space fleet engaged in combat with another vast space fleet, with minimal computer input? Current jet fighters seem to have better combat computer systems. The evil government is almost clownishly evil.

The book has a cliff hanger almost at the end and then reveals the plotting of the evil government and what it will mean for the troops and colonies in space. There are a few hints dropped in the book about future events, which seems to me that the author thought out the entire series prior to writing. Seeing as it is a nine volume affair that is probably a very good thing. I suspect that I will at least read one more book in the series and then decide if I want to invest the time for the full series

Space Team by Barry J. Hutchison

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Cal Carver is dashingly handsome, clever, witty, resourceful, brave and heroic. Well maybe one of these features at least. But he believes it darn it and he will do what a man needs to do. Cal is the hero, of sorts, in Space Team, a tongue in cheek Sci-Fi book by Barry J. Hutchinson that is the first in a five book series.

Cal is just a low level criminal who has been tossed in a cell with a hardened criminal nicknamed “The Butcher”, a cannibal that has eaten and killed 48 people-some eating starting prior to death apparently. However the book does not dwell on such morbid issues, much. Instead it is the adventures of Cal (originally masquerading as the Butcher) and a team of misfits that Zertex, giant corporation/government, hires to get some damaging footage from a planetary warlord before it starts an interstellar war

The team includes Mizette, a werewolf type who is very much a woman. Mech, a huge cyborg that can go from being a genius to a killing machine with the twist of a dial and who probably goes by the name Mech as his birth name is Cluk Disselpoof.  and Gunso Loren, a Zertex officer who has issues of her own rounds out the team. Oh and a green blob named Splurt that can assume the shape of anything, and its functionality.

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I have read a number of Sci-Fi and fantasy humor books in the past, but I think few have done it as well as Space Crew. The humor always seems fresh, and Hutchison constantly comes up with a line that makes me break out laughing. The closest book I have read that compares is probably Steven Erikson’s Willful Child.

However Ericson’s protagonist, Hadrian Sawbuck, is a supremely competent officer while Carver is only supremely confident, but believes that he is equally competent. However there is more to Cal than meets the eye. He is brave, and willing to instantly take steps. Has the ability to think things through, and gets to the obvious issues quickly rather than being distracted by side issues. It is that his mouth runs away from him and he is not as clever as he thinks he is. He likes to poke, poke, poke everybody around him.

Sternn
Captain Sternn

I try and avoid mashups when writing about books, you know a blurb that says something like “Gone With the Wind” meets “Aliens.” However Carver seems to be a mix between Captain Sternn from Heavy Metal and Peter MacNicol’s annoying camp councilor in Addams Family Values.

 

There are some reviews out there that compared this to either Terry Pratchett or to Douglas Adams and I don’t really see the comparisons, except that they are all comedies. I really believe that the Space Team stands on its own merits and highly recommend it. How can you not love a book that has an alien made out of stone who likes Dolly Parton, a zombie God, an evil soda company, and a quick guest appearance by Tobey Maguire. Also there are some clever plot twists.