Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Starship series by Mike Resnick

(Note: This review originally appeared in Ray Gun Revival 47, Oct 2008)

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Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick
Pyr Books, 2005, 286pp

Starship: Pirate by Mike Resnick
Pyr Books, 2006, 336pp

Starship: Mercenary by Mike Resnick
Pyr Books, 2007, 322pp

There are so many authors to read just to be able to claim to have a reading knowledge of the SF/F field that it is almost impossible to be able to be well-read. It used to be possible, thirty years ago, but with trade magazine Locus reporting more than one thousand new books each month, one can no longer keep on top of the field. Sure, you can be well read, but most of the reading these days for me seems to be just trying to keep on top of everything.

One author that I seem to have missed having read in the past is Mike Resnick. He has won five Hugo awards and been nominated for twenty-two more, yet somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading him, apart from a short story here or there. Man, I’ve been missing something good.

I was on vacation for the beginning of August and when I got home, I had a nice package of review books awaiting me. Included in that package were the first three of a new, projected five-book series by Mike Resnick. As with many of his novels, this new series is set in his Birthright universe, which he has been developing and expanding for the past thirty years.

This time out, Resnick takes us to a point in the Birthright universe approximately three thousand years in our future. The year is 1966 of the Galactic Era, and the Republic (of which Earth is the founder) is at war with the Teroni Federation. Far from the action, though, is the Republic ship Theodore Roosevelt, also known as the Teddy R. by its crew. It has been given the unenvious task of patrolling the remote Phoenix Cluster where nothing too exciting is happening.

The Teddy R. carries a crew of misfits and outcasts, soldiers that the Navy desires to be rid of or at least out of sight. They have all done things that are against regulations but in the long run were the best for the Navy. Rather than get rid of such soldiers, the Navy has sent them to the Teddy R. until such time as it feels it can use them again.

New to the Teddy R. is its Second Officer, Wilson Cole, who has a reputation for great heroics that come about by ignoring orders but always result in great benefit to the Navy. As with his fellow sailors aboard the Teddy R., Cole has little time for regulations but acts always to the benefit of the Republic and its Navy.

The series opens with Cole boarding the Teddy R. and becoming familiar with its layout and crew. Almost immediately, though, Cole discovers an enemy ship that has landed on one of the Republic’s planets in the Phoenix Cluster. Rather than report it to his higher-ups (who would most likely act slowly and not save the planet), Cole instead takes a shuttle down to the planet with two other crew members. He gets himself captured by the aliens, but proceeds to save the entire planet by forcing the Navy to do what it does not really want to do.

Cole gets another medal, making him the most decorated sailor in the Navy, and his crew all get commendations. The Navy, however, is not amused.

Shortly thereafter, the Teddy R. once again finds itself faced with an alien invasion. This time, however, Cole’s captain manages to get himself killed, which promotes the First Officer, a by-the-book career solider, to captain. It does not take long before Cole is faced with having to disobey his captain and commit mutiny to save an entire planet.

The second book, Starship: Pirate, picks up with the crew of the Teddy R. dealing with the ramifications of the mutiny they committed in the prior book in order to save a planet. On the run from the Navy, the crew heads for the Inner Frontier, there to set themselves up as pirates. Honorable soldiers all, they decide that instead of stealing from the innocent, they’ll instead steal from other pirates and sell the merchandise back to the insurance companies. Although they succeed in tricking and capturing other pirates, Cole and crew quickly realize that the life of a pirate is not the romantic thing they thought it was. A series of adventures and misadventures ensue as Cole tries to extricate the Teddy R. from one problem after another.

By the beginning of the third book, Starship: Mercenary, the crew of the Teddy R. have realized that they are not cut out to be pirates: military discipline and honor do not mix well with piracy. Instead, they make yet another career change and become mercenaries, helping out those who are trying to eek out a living in the Inner Frontier. As with their attempt at piracy, things don’t work out quite the way expected, and it’s not long before Cole finds himself face to face with his First Officer, a former pirate queen named Val (short for Valkyrie).

As mentioned above, there are two more projected volumes in the series, Starship: Rebel and Starship: Flagship. From those titles, it sounds like Cole and crew will eventually find reconciliation with the Navy. In the meantime, though, we get at least one more book of their escapades outside the Navy.

If those next two books are anything like the first three, then we’re going to have an incredibly exciting series here. I read all three books in a week, devouring them one after another. Resnick writes an exciting military SF that is both conventional and unexpected. On the one hand, we have the larger-than-life hero who can do amazing things; on the other hand, that same hero is humble and just wants to do something good, not playing up his fame at all. Wilson Cole is larger-than-life in his ability to get out of scrapes, but he isn’t a super-warrior. Instead he earns the confidence and respect of his crew and uses that to have them all accomplish great deeds.

The stories are fast-paced and exciting. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, Resnick throws in a twist. There are never any deus ex machinas to bail Cole and crew out. Rather, they (and by proxy, the reader) have to work their way through the mess to reach a conclusion.

After finishing these three books, I’m looking around for other books by Mike Resnick. If you haven’t read him yet, you should do so quickly. If you are already familiar with Resnick, then grab these books for a fun and exciting trip into military SF.

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