Space Captain Smith (Book Review)
by Toby Frost
Fans of absurdist humour, sci-fi allusions, and flawed yet endearing characters will enjoy this fun-filled romp!
The setting is an alternate reality … perhaps? It’s not exactly Steampunk either. In truth, it’s only bothering me now that there is no exposition on the setting – at the time of reading I simply accepted it.
Captain Isambard Smith is sent to pick up a woman, Rihanna, from the planet of San Francisco. She is a person of interest to the evil Ghast aliens who want to kidnap her for mysterious reasons. Smith is paired with a pilot, Polly Carveth, and her pet hamster Gerald. Smith's friend Suruk the Slayer joins him for fun. They travel to various different worlds, have several entertaining and well-described battles, and the entire novel is rife with British humour. If you like Hitchhiker’s Guide, Top Gear, etc, you’ll likely enjoy this. It’s as much of a satire as it is an absurdist comedy and Frost balances the two quite well.
The characters are a lot of fun. Smith is a benevolent chauvinist patriot who just wants to do a good job and impress the girl, but his chauvinism is constantly the butt of jokes. Usually a chauvinistic main character turns me completely off a novel, but it’s clear his thoughts are the result of his being an 19th century British officer, to the extent that it feels like he fell out of the 1800s. There are jokes peppered throughout the book about British colonialism, and part of the humour is that Smith doesn’t get it.
Polly is a fantastic character. She’s a sexbot android who is on the run from her client. Yet, this is not a major part of the plot, thankfully. She and Smith have a refreshingly platonic friendship. In fact, Polly and Rihanna’s sexual agency is to be much applauded, despite Smith’s reservations about it!
Suruk is basically a Predator, but he’s quite funny in his own right, such as his stealing and continuing to wear a top hat or his “innocent” comments here and there. Rihanna is a little bland, but she evens out the other three.
That being said, none of these characters are that deep. But they are wonderful to read, and this is not a psychological drama. The novel does slide in some political commentary about fundamentalism and fascism, but not to the extent that contradicted the light tone.
The novel is full of outlandish planets, creatures, aliens, and two amusing antagonists. It pokes fun at or references myriad sci fi books and movies – Blade Runner, Predator, Dune, Sar Trek, everything. Sometimes that feels anachronistic, but it always seems to still work. It moves at a fast pace but doesn't feel rushed.
Highly recommended! I’ve already ordered book 2 on Amazon.
I'm making a foray into Booktube! Please watch my review for a deeper dive into the novel.