23 April 2015

Books: Willful Child By Steven Erikson (2014)

There was Spaceballs, which parody Star Wars. Then there was Galaxy Quest, which parody Star Trek. These were two big budget films that took on two very popular franchises. And while parodying of both have been going on for decades in fanzines, on TV (Futurama in particular) and even books,  most are done by fans who lack a large media company to support them.
And while John Scalzi could be considered a fan of Star Trek (as many writers of the genre are these days, having grown up with it), he is also a well known science fiction writer who won acclaim for his Old Man's War series. He's also published numerous short stories and has a brilliant daily blog called Whatever. But in 2012 he released Redshirts, a send-up of the Star Trek franchise, in particular The Next Generation, but he tackled a lot in that book. It won rave reviews and, to everyone's surprise, the prestigious Hugo for Best Novel.
So true to form in the publishing industry, as in most multimedia, publishers want a piece of the pie that comes with the success of Redshirts. Namely popular fantasy writer Steven Erikson's late 2014 novel Willful Child
"These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the…"

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback a mixture of James T Kirk crossed with Futuama's Zapp Brannigan- and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through 'the infinite vastness of interstellar space'...

Having not read Erikson before, I still thought it might be fun to read another well-know author take on Star Trek (because even though I love it, I'm always up for people making fun of it). Sawback is a complete idiot and misogynistic ass. There are reasons for it, but you have to slug through nearly 350 pages of story to understand it. Yet even so, he's still unlikable, which makes it difficult to like the entire book. The only fun part, however, is to see how many episodes of TOS that Erikson takes on. But over all I felt the book was too Family Guy potty humor than clever, well thought-out gags. The female crew members are intelligent -and we know Sawback choose them primarily for their looks- but they're still smarter than the captain. And yet Erickson does not allow them to get the better of Sawback, which is something I think should've happened here. There is no comeuppance for the captain's incompetence towards his crew and that makes me, the reader, wonder if this is how the author really sees women -sexy, smart, but always having to acquiescence to a man. Yes, Sawback can be seen clever in his solutions, but Erickson (via the character) writes women pretty horridly here.

I was curious, as I got towards the end, how Erikson was going to tie-in the prologue and I got to admit, he did it wonderfully -even if I have issues with the characters. 

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