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Starship: Mercenary (The Starship Series book 3) by Mike Resnick

01/10/2008. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

Buy Starship: Mercenary in the USA - or Buy Starship: Mercenary in the UK

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pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 317 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59102-599-3).

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Five times winner of the Hugo Award, Mike Resnick returns to his Birthright universe with the third of his five 'Starship' novels. Much of Resnick's work is set across twenty-two thousand years of the Birthright Universe's history, with the 'Starship' books fairly early in that sequence, some three thousand years from now in the 'Republic' era.

Captain Wilson Cole is a man of principles, something short in supply as the Republic wages war with the Teroni Federation. After running into his superiors one time too many, Cole was imprisoned by the military. The loyal crew of his ship, the Theodore Roosevelt, broke him out of prison in 'Starship: Mutiny'. Wilson Cole took them and the ship out into the lawless region of space to prey on other ships in 'Starship: Pirate'.

Piracy didn't suit Cole's morals however and soon he decided selling their services as military protectors would work better. In 'Starship: Mercenary' the crew of the 'Teddy R' spend their time going from mission to mission, saving those in trouble, if they can pay. Even this begins to rub with Cole, however, and he soon starts trying to go for the most helpful rather than lucrative missions.

Space Pirate Val, a seven-foot redheaded beauty, with fearsome fighting skill but debatable leadership skills, disagrees with Cole. This is her book in essence. At the start of the novel, Val is third officer on the Teddy R but is already chafing under Cole's command and eager for a ship on her own. When she gets that ship, she begins to choose missions for their price and not their morality and this brings her into conflict with Captain Cole. Will he win her back and show her his way is better or will they have to fight?

This dynamic between Cole and Val drives the book really nicely and leaves the book feeling complete in its own right. Whilst all that's going on, there's plenty more to develop the series, with more of the wonderfully weird creation that is alien fence David Copperfield, who thinks he is in a Charles Dickens play. The Platinum Duke, a near android leader of an independent trading station, is a welcome addition to the cast and his world Singapore Station will no doubt prove to be a vital part of Resnick's story.

With Val's conflict in the foreground Cole is still making changes of his own, acquiring more ships under his command as he completes missions, building no doubt to a larger plotline in the final two volumes. As ever, Resnick is effortlessly readable. The plot feels under control at all times and yet many of the events feels spontaneous and random. The characters are funny, eclectic and engaging and the action thrills. This is a writer at the top of his game, writing extremely enjoyable space opera.

Tomas L. Martin

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