(2007) Mike Resnick, Pyr, £?, hrdbk, 323pp, ISBN 978-1-591-02599-3
This book sees the continuation of the "Starship" series featuring Captain Wilson Cole and the mutinous ex-Navy crew of the Theodore Roosevelt (affectionately known as the 'Teddy R') on the Wild West-like inner frontier. This five book series of multi-award winner Mike Resnick is set in the "Birthright Universe" and covers a period towards the end of the Republican Era during the war with the Teroni Federation.
Unfortunately, I feel Starship: Mercenary suffers from being the middle book of the series, i.e. Most of the scene setting and character building has been done, and now we wait for the conclusion of the story to start to emerge. (For a review of the first in the series see Starship: Mutiny.) For me, having not read the previous two books, it meant that it took a while to appreciate the unflinching loyalty of the Teddy R's crew and I found Captain Cole to be cold and distant. Especially the wryly amusing scene during an early job, when Cole sends out his four best to do combat with the baddies and sits at an open window musing on how, in the past, a captain could keep track of a firefight by the gunshots and screams of the protagonists! However, by the conclusion it all slotted into place, and I was not surprised when the ship's diminutive business agent (an alien obsessed with Charles Dickens) attacked a vicious and much larger alien intent on beating Captain Cole to a bloody pulp, only to be saved by another who seems rather surprised by this herself, given earlier developments in the story.
It does seem that most of the 'system lords' and pirates that Cole is paid to fight have limited imaginations and security set-ups, but then they are at the lower end of the galactic food chain. After Cole has run rings around them and avoided slaughtering the lot, he then asset strips the captured ships and crews and starts to amass a small fleet. This enables the Teddy R to move up the mercenary ladder and take on larger jobs set up for them at the Singapore Station (a fun place to be) by his business agent and the Platinum Duke.
So, I would say wait for the other books or, if you are already into the series, this installment should whet your appetite for more.
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