Thursday, January 28, 2016

Joseph J Madden's The Starhawk Chronicles II: Rest and Wreck-reation

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The gang, tired from it's recent (mis)adventures wants to get away from it all. They journey to the greatest vacation spot since ever and there they proceed to... watch the world fall apart around them. First it's something small, then it's something else then it's “Oh my Gawd we're all gonna die.” Or maybe this time, it's Joseph J Madden's The Star Hawk Chronicles Book II: Rest and Wreck-reation. Because honestly, what's a few explosions and a corpse or two between friends?

We're all familiar with the basic tale but Madden puts a spin on things that just makes it work. Things start off kind of slow. There is a meeting with the boss of the vacation spot. Things look good but actually aren't. Things are alleged. Things are denied. The crew of the Starhawk gets sucked into something they wanted no part of and it takes blood, sweat and tears to, hopefully, get out of it.

The planet may be named Utopia, but it's not one. Trouble is everywhere and things are rotten at the core. Our heroes stumble into things and if it takes a little ass-kicking to fix things well... This is the Starhawk Chronicles. I'm half tempted to believe that Madden decided to call his series that because Epic of Ass-whooping just wouldn't have looked right on a cover. I doubt that he'd admit to that even if it were true but I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. Jesse and his crew can't go anywhere without getting into a good scrape. It makes for a good time.

Once again, Madden transports us to a world where hijinks and hilarity abound. Just like the first book (entitled simply The Starhawk Chronicles) this is classic Space Opera in the Spaghetti Western mold with a bit of comedy to lighten things up. This time it feels like he tossed in just a dash of Scooby Doo as well. I had a lot of fun with the detective work angle of this book. I kept looking for Velma to walk in like “Jinkies!” It didn't happen but there's always the sequel right? And there is a lot right with a starship captain that would fit perfect in a ten gallon hat. Madden may have watched a little bit too much Firefly but that's not exactly a bad thing.

All games aside though, Madden does do a very good job of mixing genres. Mystery and Science Fiction just work when done right and he does it right. Granted, they get a bit of help from an unexpected source but that happens in many mystery novels and TV shows as well as, probably, real life.

The fight scenes in this tome were pretty epic. I always feel like scraps are going to be pretty small with a crew the size of the Starhawk's but not this time. They may be small but they are mighty... and they bring friends. Also, Jesse is smart enough to know why he should bring an artillery piece to a pistol fight. He doesn't play and neither does anyone else on his crew. When the balloon goes up they know how to react and it's usually effective, but seldom pretty.

The crew has trouble dealing with their newfound celebrity at first and that adds a bit of a realistic touch to a book full of faster than light spacecraft and aliens. Even though not all of the crew are human in a biological sense they are human seeming in their response to something that effects their lives but is out of their control. If they live it up a little, well, who wouldn't? And if an invitation to dinner with an important person results in unforeseen circumstances and a bit of foreshadowing that's all the better.

I don't think Madden consciously wrote this from a political point of view, but his view on crony capitalism shines through. In this case, it's more of the view of a business owner who IS the government but it can't be missed. In an election year this is a strong reminder that businessmen don't always have everyone's best interests at heart and that too much government interference in the economy is a bad thing. I really should've read this thing before The Donald started running for president because I can't help but picture the main villain as wearing a bad toupe. Maybe that's just me though.

I will say this for the victims in Rest and Wreck-reation though. They're not passive. When their chance comes they do whatever they can to get back at those who have wronged them. If one in particular goes a little further than I thought she would, well, good. It makes sense from a character point of view and I think it helps bring something home. Mistreatment changes people and the meek victim you thought you had may in fact be someone totally different. Poke the wrong beehive and you will get stung. And when that bee stings, you'd best hope its sting isn't toxic.

All of that being said, this is not a perfect work. Aside from the fact that the vacation gone wrong is so commonly used there was one character in particular missing and I'm pretty bitter about it. Madden knew that those complaints were coming and put something in an afterword and it makes sense but I wanted her there. Parts of this book were a bit predictable as well. A massive change in attitude from one of the crew members was probably necessary and is understandable but it just feels weird. Not so much wrong as, umm... too quick maybe? It was a full reversal of an earlier opinion and it went a hundred and eight degrees in like two sentences. Then again, it's combat and sometimes things have to happen quickly. All in all though, those mistakes were minor and I really enjoyed the book.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Missile Launches

The Starhawk Chronicles Book II: Rest and Wreck-reation
Joseph J Madden
Self Published, 2015

The Starhawk Chronicles Book II: Rest and Wreck-reation is available for purchase here:

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