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Starship: Flagship by Mike Resnick

1/01/2010. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

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

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pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 386 page hardback. Price: $26.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59102-788-1.

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Over the course of four previous books in the 'Starship' series, veteran writer Mike Resnick has shown us the fall from grace of starship captain Wilson Cole from Republic hero to mutineer and outcast. Then we have seen his re-birth and growth as a pirate, mercenary and rebel, ending with the previous book's defeat of a huge Republic attack by Cole's ragtag armada of ships led by his own starship, the 'Theodore Roosevelt'.

This conclusion to the series is one of many entries in Resnick's exhaustive 'Birthright Universe', which chronicles many millennia of mankind's expansion across the galaxy, bringing an end to the 'Republic Era' and beginning the 'Democracy Era', according to the book's appendix. The Birthright Universe is like a super-expanded version of Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' series, with each of the little acts expanded into fully fleshed out into its own complete story.

With the Republic's army defeated at Singapore Station, Wilson Cole's band of rebels has caught their attention. Following his friend's murder at the hands of Republic operatives in 'Starship: Rebel' and his increasing disgust at the way the galaxy is being ruled, Cole decides the current leadership must be overthrown. With their millions of ships, the Republic will be impossible to beat in a straight fight.

So Cole gets clever, using the Republic's arrogance and size against them in a serious of hit and run raids and faked planet attacks. Before long, his machinations have spooked their foe, allowing a sneaky attempt to overthrow the ruling government at the capital, Deluros VIII.

Like all of Resnick's novels, this is thoughtful, witty and fun to read, with snappy dialogue and clever moral and tactical twists by the protagonists. With his main verbal sparring partner killed in the previous book, Cole spends more time with the bizarre alien David Copperfield, which produces some memorable interactions.

The book also touches on some interesting moral questions when the crew of the 'Theodore Roosevelt' capture a couple of enemy combatants with knowledge of the whereabouts of captured allies. Referencing the torture quandary seen in the US armed forces in recent times, Resnick explores whether there is ever a time for such desperate measures with some aplomb.

After loving much of this series, I felt a little disappointed by its conclusion. The shocking events of the previous book robbed the series of some of its sense of humour that made the opening three novels so enjoyable. I can see why it was done but the change in tone mid-series threw me off my stride a little. The last book feels a little rushed compared to earlier volumes, with lots of events and characters in the mix for attention. The short length, barely over 300 pages, matches the lengths of the earlier material but in doing so perhaps robs the conclusion of some of its power.

This is a great series and well worth a read, there are many hilarious moments between the vibrant and exotic characters and very intelligent plotting with some great moral choices. However, I wish more time had been spent on the latter part of Wilson Cole's adventures, either with longer books for the last two volumes or an extra volume. As it is, this is a fun but unbalanced trip into the fall and rise of a key player in the Birthright Universe.

Tomas L. Martin

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