2008; 320 pages. New Author? : Yes. Book #1 (out of 5) in the Chronicles of Isambard Smith series. Genre : Sci-Fi Spoof; Space Opera. Overall Rating : 8½*/10.
The Ghasts are coming! They’re big, mean, ugly, and antlike; and they’re out to conquer the universe. You could call them ghastly, but that would be too obvious.
Set in the 25th-century British Empire, Isambard Smith is itching to do his part in thwarting the Ghasts’ plans. And he’s about to get his chance in the form of captaining a spaceship named the John Pym, and transporting a woman to one of the Empire's star bases. Smith hasn’t been given any reason for this mission, but surely it must be so important to the cause that it rates a need-to-know status.
But be careful, newly-promoted Space Captain Isambard Smith. In the past, your superiors haven’t shown much confidence in you. They may have ulterior motives for sending you out in the rattletrap John Pym, into a sector where space monsters prowl, and Ghast warships patrol.
What’s To Like...
Space Captain Smith is essentially a spoof of your typical Sci-Fi adventure. It’s kind of a combination of Starship Troopers and Spaceballs, but nevertheless is original in its wit and world-building.
Smith’s crew on the John Pym are both sparse and fascinating. Suruk The Slayer makes a wookie look like a wussie. Polly Carveth is a pilot, a simulant, and a sex toy combined. Gerald the Hamster doesn’t do much outside of sitting in a cage and being a hamster. I have a feeling his role will expand somewhere down the line.
There are some great critters to meet, greet, and avoid being eaten by. Plus several worlds to try not to die on. The story is fast-paced with our heroes getting into and out of scrape after scrape. This is a standalone novel, although it does have a ‘hook’ at the end that sets up the next book in the series.
There’s plenty of blood and gore, of both insect and human ilk. There’s no lurid sex, but there are adult situations and toy. Little Suzie probably shouldn’t read this book. Oh, and if you’re a religious fundamentalist, it’s likely you’d get irritated as well. For me, that’s a plus.
Kewlest New Word . . .
Faffing (v.) : Making a fuss over nothing. (a Britishism)
Others : Cosh (v.); Parped (v.); Naff (v.); Wallies (n.); Tiffin (n.).
“By the way, you haven’t seen an alien around here, have you? About six foot eight with a face like a cross between a boar and an upturned crab. Probably carrying a spear and a bag full of severed heads.”
Parker shrugged. “I dunno. It gets busy here.”
“He’s got an unusual laugh.”
“Oh, that bloke? He’s down the bottom of the ramp. You know him, then?” (loc. 97)
The atmosphere seemed heavy suddenly, charged. He decided to lighten it. “Besides, it’s not the strangest name I’ve heard for a ship, by a long way. I used to know a Yorkshireman who named his ship the Norfolk and Chance. I used to say, ‘Why did you call your ship Norfolk and Chance?’ and he’d reply, ‘Because there’s Norfolk and Chance she’ll get off the ground!’ Haha! Ha! Ha. Ha? Oh.” (loc. 2123)
Space Captain Smith sells for $4.99 at Amazon. The other four books in the series range from $4.39 to $7.99.
“The positronic versifier won’t transfibulate itself, after all.” (loc. 2631)
The key part of any spoof is its wit and humor. Can it remain funny, fresh, and non-repetitive throughout the story? I am happy to say that, for me and my sense of humor (and your funny bone may or may not agree), Space Captain Smith was superb in this regard.
Add to this the action, the satire, and the excellent Space Opera motif, and I found it to be a delightful book. My local (digital) library has at least two more of the series, and I intend to read them all.
8½ Stars. Highly recommended. Subtract 1 star if you think Monty Python’s movie, The Holy Grail, was boring or stupid. The humor here will probably not appeal to you.