2009; 320 pages. Book 3 (out of 5) of The Chronicles of Isambard Smith. New Author? : No. Genre : Sci-Fi Spoof; Space Opera. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
The intergalactic war rages on, with the heroic British Space Empire and the M’Lak on one side, and the dastardly Ghasts and Yull on the other. The two sides are pretty evenly matched. A new ally in either camp would probably tip the scales of the conflict.
Hey, how about the Vorl? Those creepy-crawly, ghost-like beings would make good partners for the good guys. Or excellent ectoplasmic hybridizing material for the bad guys. There's a problem though – no one’s exactly sure where the Vorl hang out. Ghosts are funny that way.
But wait a minute, isn’t one of Captain Smith’s space crew half Vorl? Why don’t we send them out on a search-and-sweet-talk mission?
Just make sure the baddies don’t catch wind of what we’re up to.
What’s To Like...
The Yull, introduced in the previous book in the series (reviewed here) now take the center stage. Their legions are fearless, relentless, and almost unbeatable unless you can somehow maneuver them to the edge of a cliff, where they have this strange urge to jump into oblivion. Rodent-like in appearance, the moniker “Lemming Men” is a natural fit.
All of Smith’s crew – Rhianna, Polly, Suruk, and Gerald the Hamster are back, along with the other white-hats Dreckitt, “W”,and Wainscott. The latter has a new assistant, Susan, who's someone you don’t want to square off against on the battlefield. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her down the line.
There are new worlds to visit, new critters to encounter, and lots of fighting, bloodshed, and zipping around space. As always, humor and wit are heaped atop the action and adventure. When’s the last time you read a sci-fi story featuring an amusement park?
There are some neat (and sometimes obscure) cultural references as well, among them Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance”, the musicians Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, and a lesson on how to play the utterly incomprehensible game of Cricket. A father is lost; a father is found. The focus is on Suruk quite a bit, and for me, he’s the real star of the series.
Wrath of the Lemming Men is a fun, fast-paced, easy-to-read standalone novel, with just a smattering of adult situations and language.
Kewlest New Word...
Shufty (n.) : a quick look; a peep. (a Britishism)
Others : Benighted (adj.)
Suruk had been staring across the bar, watching Carveth drink. Smith leaned over to him. “Everything alright, Suruk?”
“I think so. The little woman is drinking a pint of beer through a straw. She has powerful lungs, Mazuran; no doubt she would be well suited to playing the euphemism.”
“You mean euphonium.”
“I am not sure I do,” Suruk said. (loc. 2098)
“Now, would you care for some music to assist you in sleeping?” Suruk pulled out a handful of records from the shelf. “Let us see . . . Beethoven’s Ninth, Shostakovitch Moods, Stockhausen’s Greatest Melodies . . .”
“Haven’t you got anything a bit less classical?”
“I have Anthrax.”
“Thanks for sharing. What about your Minnie Ripperton records?”
Suruk raised an eyebrow-ridge. “You listen to war music in bed? No wonder you are so strange.” (loc. 3597)
Wrath Of The Lemming-Men sells for $7.99 at Amazon. The other four e-books in the series all sell for $4.99 apiece. I am at a loss to say why this one costs $3 more.
“I will have vengeance, or I will have kittens!” (loc. 3314)
There are a couple quibbles. The plotline felt a bit “forced”. Before seeking out the Vorl, Smith and company first investigate an alleged smuggling-to-the-enemy operation., and lo and behold, it gives them a key clue into locating the spectral species. I know this is space opera, but still.
Also, the overall formula for book 3 is almost identical to that of book 2. Fly around, visit a few new planets, get chased by the bad guys, and kick their fat stercoriums (stercoria?) in a climactic clash. Is this all there is to this series (in which case the books can be read in any order), or is there a larger story about cosmic conquest that is proceeding with Robert Jordanesque slowness? It would be good to know before getting too hooked on the series.
7½ Stars. Let’s be clear, Wrath of the Lemming Men is still an entertaining read, and well worth the time of anyone who enjoys their Science Fantasy laced with both humor and excitement. But please tell me this is all heading somewhere.