Monday, 14 January 2008

‘Starship: Mercenary’ – Mike Resnick (Pyr Books)


In what will probably not turn out to be a tradition of starting series midway through I’ve just finished reading ‘Starship: Mercenary’, the third (and latest) book in Mike Resnick’s ‘Starship’ series. According to the author bio, at the back, Resnick has a pretty impressive CV comprising Hugo awards, various nominations for awards and fifty two novels. Not really being into science-fiction I’m a little ashamed to say that I had never heard of Mike Resnick until last year when I saw him mentioned in Fantasy Book Critic’s blog (somewhere, can’t find the link…). One book through the door later (thanks to the kind folks at Pyr Books) and I’ll say that although it’s not without it’s faults ‘Starship: Mercenary’ is just the kind of sci-fi that I can see myself reading more of…
Captain Wilson Cole is a man with a big starship and an even bigger problem. You see, Cole has a price on his head for escaping a Republic Navy court martial and he also has a ship to look after and a crew that needs feeding. A life of piracy doesn’t work for the principled Cole but hiring out as a mercenary crew could be a pretty good compromise. ‘Starship: Mercenary’ is the story of ‘what happened next…’
I’ve said before that I really don’t enjoy ‘hard sci-fi’ so luckily for me ‘Starship: Mercenary’ is about as far away from this sub-genre as you can get. Think ‘golden age’ pulp sci-fi and you’re pretty much where Resnick is aiming to be (especially with his introduction of the ‘Pirate Queen’…) In Resnick’s universe it doesn’t matter how spaceships fly, they just do and they’re loaded up with some impressive firepower as well. Strangely enough though, weaponry is rarely used with Resnick preferring to have his characters think their way out of tricky situations. This gives the reader a great route into the heads of the main characters and results in an entertaining story where you’re never quite sure how our heroes are going to escape… Having said that though, pulp sci-fi can sometimes go down improbable paths and the final chapter will have you wondering how a certain character was able to do what he did (and why he would want to!) Resnick’s universe is very intricate and well constructed (not surprising considering how long he’s been writing in it, see the appendices) with original characters, such as the Platinum Duke, and the particularly exotic locale of Singapore Station (a much bigger version of the Mos Eisley Cantina). The naming convention (planets and people) can be a bit frustrating sometimes. For every ‘alien sounding name’ you will also get aliens naming their planet after parts of India and warlords adopting names such as ‘Genghis Kahn’. It even gets to a point where one of the crewmen asks Cole why all the villains are naming themselves after ancient warlords…
Resnick has written almost two hundred short stories (author bio again!) and this is evident in the way the book is structured. Every mission has a very tight plot with a very definite start and finish but it felt to me that the bits in between (ie shore leave on Singapore Station) weren’t quite so well defined and were only there to link up the missions. In this respect the book came across as a short story collection rather the novel it said it was…
‘Starship: Mercenary’ has it’s problems but it’s one of those books that I enjoyed reading despite this, it’s fun and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. A clever blend of ‘military sci-fi’ and ‘space opera’ that is just the job for a trip into work or a lazy weekend.

Seven and a Half out of Ten

4 comments:

Chris, The Book Swede said...

This sounds really cool. I think I probably lean a bit more "hard sci-fi" than you, but this does sound really cool!

~Chris

Carl V. said...

Don't feel bad, I do like science fiction a lot and I hadn't heard of him until I read a couple of short stories of his last year. It comes as quite a shock to read here that he is that prolific of an author. I thought he was a 'new guy'. *embarrassed smile*

David said...

I just posted a review for this as well, but I think I liked it a bit more than you did. Glad to see folks interested in this series. It's made me a Resnick fan.

Robert said...

Well, this series is on my reading list after I finish his John Justin Mallory shorts! I'll have to start with book one though. I just can't start a series in the middle ;) Also, don't feel bad because I never heard of Mike either until I read the Solaris Book of New Fantasy :)