01/06/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 287 page hardback. Price: $25.98 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59102-495-2.
check out website: www.pyrsf.com and www.mikeresnick.com
In the first three books of this highly enjoyable space opera series, Mike Resnick has shown us the adventures of Captain Wilson Cole. Thrown out of the Republic Navy for refusing to kill a world of innocent people to deny the enemy of supplies, he and his crew escaped with their ship the 'Teddy Roosevelt' to the outskirts of the galaxy.
With each novel, Cole's crew attracted more to their cause as they went from Mutineers to Pirates to Mercenaries. Having acquired a crew of more than 40 ships at the end of the third book 'Starship: Mercenary', Cole's team have grown too large to find many opponents who will fight them and contracts for mercenary engagements are growing thin.
Cole is reluctant to cause too much trouble but the dramatic death of a major character throws a huge spanner in the works of what had previously been a rather happy adventure for the crew of the 'Teddy R'. Determined to avenge his friend's death, Cole declares war on the Republic and the rest of the novel starts a revolution against the galactic government, setting up the action for book five, 'Starship: Pirate'.
The thoughtful characterisation of what is often a rather clichéd genre continues to be strong and intelligent space action abounds. Resnick treats the reader like an adult and brings a veneer of believability to galactic war and politics.
The surprising and upsetting events that stimulate the change in Wilson Cole's motivation is jarring and important, shifting the feel of the narrative from playful humour to a darker, more serious tone. It's an essential part of the five book sequence but was obviously difficult to write. The pacing of the first half of the book is a little upset by the death, leaving this novel without the breezy enjoyment of the previous three. I also feel like Resnick sometimes underplays his abilities. This short volume could be another hundred pages easily without losing its charm and the pacing problems may have been less intrusive.
Having said that, this is an important step in the five book sequence, combining smart action and world-building with engaging and believable characters to form a space opera up there with the very best. Resnick remains a key contributor to Science Fiction.
Tomas L. Martin
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