Tag Archives: bounty hunter

Boba Fett Need Not Apply (review: Space Punk)

6 Jun

I’m not surprised that the denizens of C.E. Lange’s Space Punk universe have a glut of bounty hunters roaming the universe trawling for bad guys.  Science fiction in general has the same problem.

Look guys, we’ve all watched Firefly.  We know that the early years of space colonization are going to be violent and anarchic.  But does that have to mean that every other sf novel on the shelf has to feature a rugged individualist, borderline-alcoholic, womanizing bounty hunter with a ridiculous name?  I  mean, really folks, let’s think outside the box.  And the escapes!  It’s like that annoying person in the RPG who simply will not die.  Your hero is not that lucky.  Take a page from George R.R. Martin or China Mieville and maim your protagonists once in a while.

Easy for me to say, I know–I’m not a fiction writer, probably never will be, and spend my free time picking perfectly respectable fiction apart for kicks and giggles.  But I think I speak for the average reader when I say: if you’re going to write about bounty hunting, try to make it original… somehow.

And somehow, C.E. Lange does just that.  (See, I’m not so mean, am I?)  Zane Abraham has a ridiculous name; he drinks; he womanizes; he’s a stunner of a pilot; and he’s our first-person narrator.  It’s a recipe for obnoxious.  And yet, Lange shies just clear of cliche with a deft touch of characterization: Zane Abraham is a terrible bounty hunter.  He admits it in the first line of the book:

Bounty hunting wasn’t meant for me, but I did it anyway.

If I’m being completely honest, I did not expect to like this book (see above).  Bounty hunting just isn’t for me, but in this case, I liked it anyway.

What can I say–Zane’s failure is kind of endearing.

Our hero (if I can justifiably call him that) is both likable and relatable–half the battle when it comes to getting a reader to stick a novel through, especially when it’s first-person narration and you’ll have that character’s voice echoing in your head for a week or two.  But I don’t mind Zane’s voice.  Our protagonist is variously cynical, sarcastic, bitter and bored, and he too feels the creeping lethargy a tedious book can bring on:

Nothing exciting happened for at least a week. Five of those days I drank way too much beer and the other couple of days were spent recouping from my five day bender. It was during this cool down period that I tried to finish the stupid book Victor had forced me to read. I tried to get myself through the book while I was drinking, but those pages had to be read again once I was sober, and even then it was difficult to follow the translation. About half of the way through, one of the characters became so long-winded that I lost interest in the spoon-fed plot, and it was hard for me to keep the pages turning when there was just so much boring space to look at. That was sarcasm.

But his story is neither long-winded nor spoon-fed.  And his reactions to the action of the novel are sometimes so incongruous as to be absolutely hilarious:

After I pulled out my pistol and shot [her] in the head, I felt pretty good about myself.

Not about the fact that I had taken somebody’s life, but the fact that I was able to function at optimum efficiency during a situation where previously I would have panicked and stood frozen. Other than having a little bit of experience catching small-time crooks, I had never shot anybody in the head. I had fired a couple of shots at people, mostly at their legs, and hit most of them, but I had never outright shot to kill somebody with one shot. It was mostly luck, I can tell you that honestly, but I was glad I had spent so many hours at the range back on Seejen. I knew the guy who ran a shooting depot in town, and most of the time he let me shoot for free, as long as I brought my own ammo.

Like I said: endearing.

Final Verdict:

Space Punk is conventional in plot and structure, but interesting and likable characters save the day.  C.E. Lange’s writing–via Zane Abraham’s narration–is dryly funny with a down-home sort of feel.  There may be a glut of bounty hunters in fiction, but as far as I’m concerned, the top job’s already been filled by Lange’s perpetually astonished anti-hero.  Boba Fett need not apply.

Reading time: Don’t take my incredible ability to get off-schedule as a guide to how long this book will take you.  At 125 pages in print, it’s a fairly short novel.  2 weeks.

Availability: Space Punk can be purchased as an ebook on Amazon for $2.99.  I suggest, as always, trying a sample for Kindle before buying.

You might also like… Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland.  It’s the first indie novel I ever reviewed, and it still have a special place in my heart.  From Cleveland, you’ll get the hunted, not the hunter, but there’s something comparable in the writing style.  And that’s a good thing.


Z is for Zealot (review: Rogue Hunter, by Kevis Hendrickson)

29 Dec

Zounds!  In his novel Rogue Hunter: Quest of the Hunter, Kevis Hendrickson takes full advantage of that most-neglected letter of the alphabet when naming his characters: from the heroine, the zaftig bounty hunter Zyra Zanr, to his arch-villains, the sinister crime syndicate Zaragos.  Add some life-long vendettas into the mix and we’ve got a story zappy with zealotry.

[Is it just me, or is the letter Z looking really weird right about now?  Vocab vertigo, or something.]

Alliteration aside (see what I did there?), Hendrickson’s space opera has a lot more going for it than the somewhat cliche, overly-“futuristic” name choices might suggest.  It’s just what Wikipedia tells us a space opera should be:

A subgenre of speculative fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. The name has no relation to music, since it is by analogy to soap operas (see below). Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale. Sometimes the term space opera is used in a negative sense, to denote bad quality science fiction, but its meaning can differ, often describing a particular science fiction genre without any value judgment.

I’m no science fiction purist.  I got into a small-scale comment thread debate on a previous review I wrote about just this topic: science fiction versus Science Fiction.  First of all, Plantonic capitalization really doesn’t work for anyone but Emily Dickinson.  Second, who the hell cares?  Hard SF, Soft SF, Social Science Sci-Fi, Speculative fiction, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Slipstream, the “New Weird”–to flash back to my high school mock trial days, it’s a distinction without a difference, Your Honor.  A professor recently called me a “lumper,” rather than a “splitter,” and that’s just fine.  Let’s leave the minute categorizations to Linnaeus, shall we?

With that said, when I use the term “space opera,” I’m in that latter group–denoting a genre, not making a snide remark on quality.  I made a snide remark about Zyra’s name, and about her svelte and zaftic physique defying the laws of gravity (see above), but after the following colon I’ll be completely sincere: Rogue Hunter is a fast read, and an excellent adventure.

Yes, there is some seriously melodramatic melodrama–the beautiful Zyra becomes a bounty hunter to avenge her father’s brutal murder by Zaragos, and then (spoiler alert!) her fiance’s.  But the other defining characteristics of the genre–large-scale conflict, space travel, galaxy-wide conspiracies, alien races, epic battles and epic heroes–can be incredibly entertaining.  And in this case, the quest of our Herculean heroine Zyra Zanr is clearly the focus of the novel.

Far-flung, far-future stories necessitate a glimpse into the technology of our distant descendants (ye gads, I just can’t stop!).  Hard SF devotees won’t like the dearth of technical details in Kevis Hendrickson’s writing, but I’m satisfied with the glimpse I get–especially when the writing is so clever (I guess 52nd century humans don’t recognize the irony in an “Icarus Tech Propulsion Pack,” or the appropriateness of a computer hacker named “Logos”).

The technology involved is creative, but seems so natural as not to need exhaustive explanation.  And the ideas stick with you–I had a “wow, that’s brilliant” moment when Hendrickson introduced the cryo-chamber unit in Zyra’s ship:

As a matter of standard space-faring knowledge, cry-chambers were installed in every cruiser-class starship as a last-means emergency device.  Assuming that all other options had been exhausted to repair a starship, and flight controls or life-support systems were lost, the idea was that the ship’s pilot could activate the cryo-chamber unit, and put herself into suspended animation with the hope that somewhere along the line someone would locate the ship and rescue her, even if it took many years.

It makes perfect sense that, with distances of light years and parsecs separating spacefarers, cryogenics could be a practical tool.  Commonly-used, even.  I just never would have thought of it.

But like I said, Rogue Hunter‘s about the hunter herself: Zyra Zanr, the bounty hunter.  Here’s how she describes herself and her career:

“Bounty hunting’s a fancy way of saying: Look at me, I’m a dysfunctional human being and my life’s a wreck.  Get too close and you’ll be sorry!”

Sad for Zyra, but awesome for us–because a book about a polished, put-together bounty hunter would be no fun at all.

Zyra has some serious inner turmoil going on.  One the one hand, she’s an Alliance Space Marine Academy dropout in the fugitive business for some quick cash.  Bounty hunting’s a purely practical matter.

One the other, she’s fueled by revenge, that most enduring motivator.  Leaving a trail of corpses behind her, Zyra doesn’t make too many friends among the InterGalactic Police–except for space cop deputy Hunter, her ill-fated lover, who knows exactly how messed-up his fiancee is:

“Worse yet, you’ve finally pissed off the IGP… in your defense, I told the other back at the barn that you’re just a damn overly-committed zealot.  A hopelessly desperate, overly-committed zealot, but a zealot no less.”

Love you too, babe!

That sort of complexity makes me think twice about the title–and whether Zyra’s hunting rogues, or the rogue herself.  Dysfunctional and operatic as her life may be, I like Zyra, and I like reading about her.  What else do I need to say?  Oh, right:

Rogue Hunter: Quest of the Hunter is available as an ebook on Amazon for $0.99

This has been the 150th post of the Scattering.  Bully for me.

Now Reading: Rogue Hunter, by Kevis Hendrickson

20 Dec

It’s space opera time.

Next on the to-read list is Kevis Hendrickson’s Rogue Hunter: Quest of the Hunter.  From the book description:

Zyra Zanr is the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. Criminals everywhere cower at her name. During the attempt to capture a notorious fugitive, she stumbles onto a conspiracy to murder the senators of the InterGalactic Alliance. Behind this plot is a clandestine force seeking to destroy not only the InterGalactic Alliance, but mankind as well.

War looms on the horizon as Zyra collides with this deadly force threatening to rock the very foundations of time and space. Zyra’s quest to uncover the mastermind behind this plot will pit her against an evil menace beyond her wildest imagination. Only Zyra can save humanity from an impending holocaust. Victory will mean the salvation of the human race. Failure will mean the end of all that Zyra holds dear. The battle for the future has begun!

I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover (art), but really?  Subtle, Zyra, subtle.  Although, to give the benefit of the doubt–I suppose if she’s out in zero-G, her physiology doesn’t need to conform to the usual laws of nature… right?