Published by Pyr
Mike Resnick is one of the most widely acclaimed writers in Speculative Fiction, with many awards and nominations on his resume. Much of his recent work has been in short story form, though he has penned many, many novels. In Starship: Mutiny Resnick sets his sights on Space Opera/Military Science Fiction, setting the story in his expansive Birthright Universe. How does it turn out?
The stage is set thusly, one military officer who often circumvents the rules to save his crew and lead a successful mission – check. Several strange alien species working alongside humans – check. The vastness of space populated by humans in the far future – check. These are three key ingredients to Space Opera. As the novel opens, Commander Wilson Cole joins the starship Teddy Roosevelt. Cole is something of an enigma, on one hand few, if any other officers in the Navy are as recognized and awarded as Cole. On the other, many of his awards and decorations are the result of commandeering missions, that while ultimately successful, are performed outside the rules set forth by the Navy When Naval officer becomes problematic, in that they circumvented their rules but were still successful, these officers are sent to the Teddy R. This isn’t exactly a promotion, the Teddy R is something of a mix of misfits and insubordinates.
Much of the novel concerns itself with the interplay between Cole, his two superior officers and Cole’s relationship to members of the crew. Cole’s seeming lack of adherence to the rules immediately sets him at odds with the Captain, a human and Second Officer, a podok, one of the alien races on the Teddy R. Despite the friction between Cole and these two, his charisma and effectiveness wins him over with the majority of the ship’s crew. The character dynamics flesh out very well, and as the story progresses, the tension grows and makes for some very fast-paced reading. Adding fuel to the fire of these relationships on the Teddy R are the encounters with a hostile enemy army.
Much of the novel’s plot is relayed through the conversations the characters have with each other. This is not to say the action normally associated with the battles and conflicts of Space Opera are missing. Rather, I felt this moved the progress of the plot more quickly. The conversations come across genuinely, enough that I could hear the characters speaking to each other in my head. The prose is also smooth and helps to quicken the pace. Both the dialogue and prose are clear, precise with nary a word wasted.
As an added bonus, the book contains over 30 pages of appendices detailing Resnick’s impetus for both this particular book and the Birthright Universe, a timeline of the Universe, and a plethora of interesting information that has me both eager for the next volume, and eager to seek out additional stories in the Birthright milieu.
The novel is quite short at just around 250 pages. In the slim volume; however, Resnick packs a lot of adrenaline, action and plot, which encompasses the wide swath of the galaxy. Where writers of Space Opera often tell their installments excess of 600 pages, Resnick comes along and tells a streamlined story nearly one third that size in page count, but with as much substance in its action, dialogue, and tension. Something about the story also brought back my memories of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series. Resnick, of course, brings a much more modern sensibility to the story, as well as more clear and refined writing, but the fun, adventure, and WOW-factor of the expansive universe sings of the page in both. I can recommend Starship: Mutiny without hesitation.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford