Brought to you by OBS reviewer Scott
Just imagine the over the top comic narration of Doulas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) applied to the original Star Trek series and you’ll get the right idea about this book. Science fiction that generates a laugh a second and a highly antithetical science fiction romp across the galaxy with a motley crew in Steven Erikson’s ship The Wilful Child.
With Captain Hadrian Sawbuck, a hammed up William Shatner; a six armed chief claustrophobic engineer; an alcoholic adjutant; an inflatable alien doctor and a nihilist weapons specialist to name a few, the bizarre adventures of the ship the Willful Child (itself “infected” by a rogue A.I. program that later manifests as a chicken) there is a chemistry that spurns the reader forward laugh by laugh as the adventures gets zanier and zanier misadventures across the known (and unknown) galaxies.
The book is tongue and cheek all the way, with situations and scenarios that, with the pop culture of the original Star Trek (of which everyone has seen at least once – and if not, where have you been the last 50 years?) had me bursting at the seams in laughter. The prose glides easily making this a light read, with truly resounding characters, and the novel actually conceals a carefully woven plot.
I found the book’s character’s to be the most endearing part of the book, their interactions just made the novel sing. I particularly liked Captain Hadrian Sawbuck’s attitude; a highly egotistical, boorish, schooled in 60’s science fiction – a total parody of Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame (almost, but usually on the mark) and his interactions with the rest of the crew. Wynette Tammy, The Willful Child’s A.I. “hijacker” (who talks with a male voice) made all of the other characters shine. The cast of characters – motley at best – are parodies of classic ‘Trek characters and you know their history, just in the way they are sketched.
The story’s plot was almost unnoticeable while I was laughing so hard, but turned out to be surprisingly intricately laid out. The labyrinth-like structure upon reflection required an artful eye on behalf of Steven Erikson. I read the book again, amazed at how the butterfly effect turned small instances into greater parts of the whole, for example the case of a hyper-evolved chicken that steals a scalpel, cranial drill and skins a rat (the ship has a sewage system!), removes the brain and proceeds to build an exoskeleton, kidnaps the chief engineer, and then barters him back to the crew. The planet of telepathic cute kittens who depopulated a human civilization with their “cuteness.” also stands out in my mind, as well as the Captain’s necessary total sex-change in order to mount a rescue operation.
For those of you die-hard Star Trek fans who don’t mind a little rib-poking, to lovers of the movie Trekkies, or Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will find a book full of laughs and an overall fantastic read. I highly recommend it.