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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Space Captain Smith" by Toby Frost (Reviewed by Liviu C. Suciu)

Order “Space Captain SmithHERE

INTRODUCTION: I first heard of “Space Captain Smith” when reading an online forum mini-review by a contributor whose tastes are very similar to mine. So I checked the excerpt available at the publisher' site (Myrmidon Books) and enjoyed it so much that I ordered the book on the spot. I usually like my fiction dark and moody, though I appreciate liberal doses of black humor, so I tend to stay away from light humorous sff, but this novel was so funny that I couldn’t stop laughing and I ended up enjoying the book very much…

SETTING: A parody of the typical space opera setting with many human and alien polities competing aggressively among the stars:

In the far future, the reborn British Empire is the best hope of humanity and its allied species in a hostile universe containing such horrors as the militarist Ghast Empire led by Number 1 and the religious fanatics, believers in a universal apocalypse of the Republic of Eden.

Captain Isambard Smith, his sidekick—alien head-hunter Suruk—and his pilot, escaped android sex slave Polly Carveth, are sent on a desperate mission to ensure herbalist Rhyanna Mitchell is not captured by the aforementioned villains . . . a mission on which the fate of freedom, empire, humanity and everything depends…

FORMAT/INFO:Space Captain Smith” stands at 306 pages divided over twelve titled chapters. The narration is third-person mostly from the POV of our title hero, but also follows several other characters including his weird crew, a depressed android super-assassin, and the two main villains which are even dumber than Captain Smith: Commander 462 of the Ghast and Captain Gilead of Eden. The writing is very funny, snappy and will make you laugh every third phrase or so. The ending brings together most of the threads in the novel, but it is clear that we are not done with the evil Ghasts, the stupid fanatics of New Eden, the British Empire, and the one and only Space Captain Isambard Smith. The sequel, "God Emperor of Didicot", is just as funny and enjoyable as the first book.

May 6, 2008 marks the UK Paperback publication of “Space Captain Smith” via
Myrmidon Books. Cover illustration provided by Angelo Rinaldi. “God Emperor of Didicot”, the second book in the Chronicles of Isambard Smith, was released September 2, 2008, while the third book, “Wrath of the Lemming-men”, is scheduled for a May 18, 2009 release.

PLOT HINTS AND ANALYSIS:Space Captain Smith” is a hoot from end to end. First, we meet the down on his luck Captain Smith resigned to another day of waiting for a space command that never comes, when the mysterious Mr. Khan makes him an offer he cannot refuse: A ship, a crew, and a mission.

It matters little that the ship, John Pym, is badly refurbished and outdated; that the crew consists of one android pilot with a pet hamster; and that the mission is full of danger. All Captain Smith wants to do is fulfill the early promise he showed as the only non-A student at his prep school. That or die trying.

Since Suruk the Slayer, his M'Lak associate, is coming too, Isambard knows that in a close quarters fight he can prevail. Of course, he is a little worried that his pilot doesn’t seem to have a clue about flying a ship and that John Pym is practically unarmed…

Story-wise, on the periphery of the Empire, the orbiter of New Francisco—a heaven for free love, universal brotherhood, easy drugs and whatnot—is in danger. The Ghasts and the Edenites are circling it hungrily and with the British Empire committed in so many other places, there is hardly any defense, unless the psychic vibes of its assorted inhabitants count.

On New Francisco, Rhyanna Mitchell, a seemingly unimportant herbalist, needs to be protected and transported safely into the heart of the Empire. So, Captain Smith undertakes the mission to rescue Rhyanna, though as things turn out, who rescues whom is up for debate…

Commander 462 and Captain Gilead of Eden are fearsome enemies, but more than a bit stupid. Of course, we cannot say Isambard is much smarter, although he does outmatch them in bravery and karma.

The action moves briskly in “Space Captain Smith” and has everything you would expect in a space opera novel including battles on planets and ships, plot twists and more. The best part of the novel though is its funny and snappy dialog. So while the action gets into slapstick farce every once in a while, I did not care since I was too busy laughing out loud at the book.

In the end, if you are in the mood for a light and funny space opera adventure, then you can’t do any better than Toby Frost’sSpace Captain Smith”. Very enjoyable and strongly recommended…


Peta said...

A "light and funny space opera" sounds fab! Definitely one to add to my wishlist.


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