Willful Child by Steven Erikson

From the New York Times Bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new science fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

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-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback 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.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

I’m a great admirer of Steven Erikson, especially his Malazan books. I also like science fiction, Star Trek and humor. So why when they all got put together in Willful Child did it all fail so miserably for me?

Willful Child is a tongue-in-cheek send up of the Star Trek universe, particularly the original characters.  The starship Willful Child is captained by a newly commissioned officer, Hadrian Sawback who is handsome, cocky and headstrong. His crew is a mixture of beautiful women and barely competent men.

Sawback divides his time between trying to bed his crew and charging headlong into danger, blowing things up and sorting out the consequences later.  His rash decisions tend to work out improbably for the best, although they usually leave him with his shirt in tatters.

The problem I had with this book is that it was too over the top and everything was too obvious. The plot moving the book forward was very thin and mainly served as an excuse to move from one episodic adventure to another.  (Get it?  episodes?).  Places where I think I was supposed to be laughing I found myself sighing instead.

It’s not that the writing is bad; it’s not.  Erikson is too good a writer for that to be a problem.  The problem is that the characters, while perhaps somewhat intentionally so, are way too shallow.  I didn’t care about any of them. Where Galaxy Quest mocked the same conventions, it did it with more care and with more sympathetic characters. This book was a miss for me.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

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