Published by Pyr
Having given up the life of a space pirate, Captain Wilson Cole tries his hand at the mercenary trade. Such is the premise for the third installment of Mike Resnick’s entertaining Starship series. Mercenary follows quickly on the heels of the previous novel (Starship Pirate), with the same interesting mix of alien characters, not the least of which are the eccentric and humorous David Copperfield and the Space Pirate Queen Val. While the novel is fast paced and entertaining, Copperfield’s character adds a great deal of humor and comedic relief to the story and grows into more than strictly comic relief by the novel’s end.
This time around, the crew of the Teddy Roosevelt is still looking to make their way in the universe without going into the territory of the Galactic Republic, where both Cole and Roosevelt are wanted dead or alive. Having learned the life of a pirate isn’t suited to him, Cole can still do good as a mercenary, choosing the jobs where he can help and still get paid. With Copperfield as his agent, Cole eventually winds up on Singapore Station. Part Coruscant, part super-satellite planet, Singapore Station is run by the Platinum Duke who has a past more in common with Cole than Cole would have thought possible.
Also returning to the fold is Val, the giant red-headed Pirate Queen whom Cole made his third in command in the previous novel. The tension builds throughout the novel between Cole and Val and leads to a parting of the ways. This separation eventually leads to a clash of ships, but despite all of the chaos their relationship endures, Cole still believes in the good Val can do. The characters in the book had a tough time following Cole’s heart about Val, even if they were required to follow his lead since the served under him.
As with the previous novels, much of the story is told through the words of the characters. The chapters are short and as I’m learning with much of Resnick’s fiction, he writes economically wasting no words. The character interactions flavor most of the story, with much of the space action taking place post- or pre-conversations, though not all of it. In this sense, it seems as if Resnick is intentionally eschewing the conventions of the Space Opera/Military SF subgenre and rather focusing on the development of these characters under trying circumstances.
As I noted in my review of Starship Pirate, here once again Wilson Cole manages to make everything work and this is growing slightly wearying. Every plan he enacts succeeds, every challenge he faces is surpassed. A minor exception to this rule occurs at the end of the novel, but overall there is little doubt or suspension of disbelief whether or not Cole will succeed. Despite that, I’m still enjoying this series and am interested to see where Resnick is going to take the Teddy R. and its crew. So the bottom line is this: if you’ve enjoyed the first two Starship novels, there is no reason not to continue on with the story.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford