RogerBW's Blog

A Game of Battleships, Toby Frost 22 December 2020

2013 humorous science fiction, fourth in the Isambard Smith series. Smith and his crew take on an unbeatable prototype warship, protect a peace conference, invade a planet of religious fanatics, and visit Europe.

Well, it's more of the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing; these are much more iconic serial characters than they are ones with a narrative arc, and while there are occasional references to earlier books I don't think anyone would feel lost reading these out of order.

'Stress is caused by the attachment of negative money energy. Money attaches itself to the uninitiated. Only by full initiation into the Church of the New Eden will you be relieved of all stress.'

For me the "Europe" jokes fall flatter than they would have before 2016, but they don't make up a large part of the plot. And for every joke that's too crude or otherwise doesn't quite work for my taste, there's a bit of subtlety that comes together perfectly.

She looked, Smith thought, like a cross between a monk, a ghost and Little Red Riding Hood. Seen from the front, it appeared as if the robe was animating itself. 'I look like something from science fiction.'

'You mean speculative fiction. Science fiction has talking squids.'

The central conceit of portals to a fantasy world doesn't quite feel as though it fits into the genre, but it is a broad genre even before Frost inserts the chisels to widen it further, and I'm probably just being picky.

'Listen, crew… it may be that we've activated some kind of portal to another dimension, or that Carveth has finally flipped her lid and gone completely doolally. Our eventual task will be to determine whether this thing does actually lead to some sort of hellish netherworld and, if so, claim it for the British Space Empire.'

I found things a little slow between the action scenes; tempo changes in a book shouldn't be obvious, I think, and this book feels more like a chain of incidents than it does like a single story. But the incidents are good.

'Attention Ghast and Yullian fighter squadrons,' he barked into the commlink. 'Slaughter-Wing, do you read?'

'All hail Number One!' the loudspeaker snarled.

'Deathbolt Squadron?'

'Obedience is strength, Commander.'

'Gentle Patter of Spring Rain on the Temple Roof of Our Beloved and Entirely Non-Genocidal War God Popacapinyo?'

'Yul aaaaaiiiii! All glory to Popacapinyo!'

Perhaps a slight step down from the previous volume but still worth reading if you're enjoying the series so far.

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Previous in series: Wrath of the Lemming Men | Series: Chronicles of Isambard Smith | Next in series: End of Empires

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