RogerBW's Blog

Space Captain Smith, Toby Frost 31 May 2016

2008 humorous science fiction; first in its series. In the 25th Century the British Empire will soon be fighting the insectoid Ghast; but Captain Isambard Smith, square-jawed, courageous, and perhaps a bit dim, is called on to take an elderly refitted freighter on a courier mission.

Most humorous stories fail for me because they subordinate plot and character to getting the jokes in. This book doesn't have a terribly sophisticated plot, though there's plenty of action, and sometimes it descends into farce; but (unlike say Red Dwarf) the characters never act as though they know they're comedic characters, and that's what made it work for me.

"In layman's terms, this ship probably used to fly like a pig. Now it flies like a pig with a firework up its bum. I'm not sure which is better."

The humour is on occasion disappointingly puerile (when told that the ship's android pilot is female, someone comments that she'll be unable to reverse or read maps, which almost caused me to give up on the book in the first chapter), but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.

These aliens need to be taught a lesson, preferably one that they will be unable to learn from on account of being very dead at the end of it.

As well as Smith, the principals are Polly Carveth (that android pilot, who turns out to have forged her credentials as part of an escape from the job she was built for), Suruk the Predator-ish warrior alien, and the passenger Rhianna Mitchell, space hippie chick who's more than she appears.

Lights flashed above a connecting tube on which were painted the words "Peace — friendship — understanding". This was going to be a tough place to stomach.

All right, so "I suggest we just get back to repairing the ship and forget all this made-up science-fiction stuff. The positronic versifier won't transfibulate itself, after all" may not have quite the same pithy ring as "We live on a spaceship, dear", but it'll do.

"You know I said we were going to cut and run? Well, we've done the running part. Get your knives."

This isn't a great book by any means, but it's a comedic work I actually enjoyed, which at least scores it points for rarity.

Followed by God Emperor of Didcot. (The tea must flow.)

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  1. Posted by Peter at 02:52pm on 03 June 2016

    God Emperor of Didcot is I think fun: tea as a source of Moral Fibre (to avoid the dreaded LMF). Perhaps just me, but I think you can see the legal background in the writing.

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