RogerBW's Blog

Poor Man's Fight, Elliott Kay 22 May 2022

2013 space-navy SF, first of a series. On Archangel, your final exam determines how much you owe the company for your education. Tanner Malone messed that up, but joining the Navy will help pay the debt back faster. Meanwhile the local pirates are getting bolder…

Yes, it's mil-sf with a basic-training sequence, but it's one that didn't annoy me. I get the feeling that Kay knows that the reader already knows how this stuff works, and avoids at least some of the cliché: yes, the basic "we need to break you down in order to build you back up into a soldier" stuff is still there, but perhaps because this is for a space navy which has little use for grunts (or perhaps because Kay, according to his author bio, has a US Coast Guard background) there's a lot more of the constructive, of the actual positive things Malone learns rather than just details of exercise and emergency drills.

It may help that this isn't just one person's story: we get asides to some of the political leadership, clearly setting up for something like a revolution, and to the pirates, as a liner crewman decides to join up. And my goodness, these are space pirates that make something like sense – they capture liners and ransom the passengers, they sell loot to third parties, and once those third parties think the free port du jour isn't safe from law enforcement any more, they're gone and it's all to set up again. The quartermaster is in command except during combat, and all important decisions have to be voted on, Caribbean-style. If you're going to have space pirates, this seems like a thoroughly good way to do it. (Yes, all right, you do still need implausibly cheap spaceships, but that's a relatively minor sin against economics.)

(And, as it turns out, some of the pirates have deeper connections with intelligence agencies than anyone would want to admit…)

Then things go on to let Malone be a hero – twice, in fact, though both instances are basically a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and the last third or so of the book is basically Die Hard on a spaceship… to which, I admit, I am not averse. All right, perhaps Malone is just a bit implausibly good, but he accepts the odds against him and fights very smart, and that certainly helps.

None of this is masterpiece level material, but it's all good fun and it avoids the major sins. I'm certainly encouraged to read more.

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Series: Poor Man's Fight | Next in series: Rich Man's War

  1. Posted by dp at 08:27pm on 22 May 2022

    Sounds fun. May take a look at this!

    Speaking of old-style Caribbean rather than space pirates, an interesting book I read recently was The Sea Rover's Practice by Benerson Little; a former SEAL, he offered "been there, done that" take on the tactics of boarding ships, etc.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:25pm on 22 May 2022

    Ooh, interesting. On the queue!

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