Thursday, April 23, 2015
Take The Star Road, by Peter Grant
Some mistakes you CAN fix.
It didn't start out as a mistake, actually.
It started out like this: I read a lot of good writing. And, I have recently reflected upon the chain of writers and etc. that have brought me to my present job, which is reviewing books.
It started with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle with Lucifer's Hammer in 1978. That was followed up, in rapid order, with Flight of the Horse, World of Ptaavs, A World out of Time, and Inferno, and then I realized anything either of them wrote, I wanted. And somewhere along the way, I discovered David Drake. And after a while, I realized that the books I liked had little rocketships on them, and then I found Baen.com and webscriptions, and over time, read Sarah Hoyt. And someone said Sarah had a good column on the Mad Genius Club, so I went there. And, beginning with 'Plant Life' by Cedar Sanderson, I started to read the works of the other authors, and to review them on Amazon. I eventually got a Kindle Unlimited membership, which let me read all KU books on Amazon for 9.99 per month, and I started cranking out the reads and the reviews.
This is where it gets weird. See, I like Tom Kratman and David Drake and Ringo, good stories where you blow things up and kill people. It's because I'm a redneck with a pickup truck and a motorcycle and guns, not to mention my very own gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA. So: I want to read manly books about manly men doing manly things, see, but the authors at MGC, they TURN on me! And they have me read books about PIXIES! And SHAPESHIFTERS! So, I decide I will write, ummm, alternative reviews. So I write a review about shapeshifters that I say is a blisteringly hot LGBT allegory. And I write a review about a romance on a ranch that I say is an allegory of the space race. And they are amused, and I am amused. Here's where the problem happens.
I review one of Peter Grant's books, and decide to do so as if I were a clueless literature professor, who somehow mistook the book as a collection of blank verse. Ha ha.
It was really not a problem at all, because I was just posting my reviews on Amazon, and nobody reads those anyway. I gave the book five stars, which it deserved.
But a month or so ago, I started posting all my reviews on my blog, and people started reading the blog. Not only are they reading the new posts, there are some folks who go back and read the old posts. And that's when I realized I had shortchanged Peter. The book I reviewed was Number 1 in his Maxwell Saga, and #1 is where you get people involved in your series. So, this review, which you are reading right now, is the review which I should have written back in January. If you've got that one, pitch it. It's not even that funny.
Steve Maxwell is a young man doing his best to make his way. Despite being raised in an orphanage, he has managed to get a good education, and taken courses to become a spacer, but he needs hands-on experience to get his certificate. The best he can do is move to the space hub, and scrounge a part time job at Louie's bar as a dishwasher and hope an opening comes up on a departing freighter. His long term goal is to become a citizen of Lancaster, which is the system with the best reputation for good treatment of citizens, and minimal criminal and government activity (I suppose that's related...).
His luck changes one night when the Lotus Tong tries to muscle in on Louie at closing time. Steve downs three attackers with his martial arts skills, Louie takes care of one, and the remaining two flee. Louie has a prior arrangement with the much more powerful Dragon Tong, and calls on them to pick up the bodies. Steve earns their respect, and a debt of honor with them. Louis also owes a lot to Steve, so he gives him full-time work while they wait for a ship willing to take an apprentice.
The ship arrives, in the person of Bosun Vince Cardle of the Sebastian Cabot. He and Louie go way back, doing a bit of grey-market trading together, and he takes Louie's recommendation, and gives him a chance. At the same time, the Dragon Tong, in debt to Steve for saving Louie, pay off with a huge fortune in gold, which is enough to completely cover Steve's spacer equipment and leave three years salary as a next-egg.
Just before boarding his new ship with Bosun Cardle, though, Lotus Tong strikes back. Again, Steve and his allies overcome the attackers, and in disarming them, Steve discovers a peculiar jade knife, which he claims.
What follows is a coming of age story. I rather dislike that every good author who writes a coming of age story in space has to be compared to Heinlein, but there you go; RAH did it so well, that the references come to reviewers, and, well, we have to USE them. How about “Captains Courageous?” Is that okay? Except that Steve isn't a rotten rich kid who accidentally gets forced into maturity. He seeks every opportunity he can, on his own, to better himself, and because he does it without arrogance, and because he never skimps on the job at hand, he receives favor from those in authority over him.
This is not a blood and guts kind of story, although it is through personal combat that we meet Steve. His ambition isn't simply a type of selfishness, either; on one of his first trips, he organizes special snacks for orphans being shipped out of a combat zone. His enthusiasm inspires others, and what starts as a few cookies for the kids becomes an all-hands-on evolution of good will. Eventually, word gets out, and funds and supplies are donated to what becomes known as Operation Sweet Tooth. It's one of the best parts of the book, because it gives many characters, not just Steve, an opportunity to exhibit their depth.
Without getting into spoiler territory, Steve develops a lifelong hatred for piracy. The circumstances allow him to enter the Lancastrian military ahead of schedule, which means his citizenship status is expedited.
And there are dirty doings ahead...
Steve Maxwell's story continues through four books, so far, and each one of them is well worth your time. They are also worthy of good reviews, but this is the only one I shortchanged.
That has now been rectified!