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A Spaceman's Gotta Do What a Spaceman's Gotta Do


by Bill Parker (2016)

The book begins with a dry and lengthy history of something called the Union Fleet and something called the Syndicate. I love history, but it's not as if I can look up any of this up on Wikipedia. And it would read better if this material had been introduced organically within the text or in dialog.

However, the story picks up once our hero, Dallas, buys a spaceship. This book harkens back to the era of the space-opera, with rocket ships, androids, and laser guns. That I like, as it makes it easier for the casual reader of sci-fi to jump aboard.

Dallas is the only true human aboard, at first. His crew consists of a pair of androids. The ship he buys has a holographic co-pilot called Jessica. Why the hologram was designed to get all wet for Dallas is not explained and that's probably a good thing.

Even more distracting is Mariah, who appears at first as a naked blonde. It turns out she's generated into 3D by the ship's computers, making her not merely a visual hologram but alive, if artificial. She uses the toilet and everything. She serves as the ship's Science Officer but her primary role is to mope over the rugged Dallas and sigh.

Just when you might think soap opera is overtaking space opera, and Dallas seems a bit unfocused with his life, up comes a mission to save a child kidnapped by those dastardly Syndicate mercenaries. Here's where the actions starts.

Unlike Star Trek's lawful and peaceful Federation, the Union has stretched itself out farther and faster than it can keep up. Central government can not maintain control of the outlaying star systems. And so the Union is divided between Outlanders and Pilgrims, which sound like about the same thing but aren't. If Pilgrims are settlers, Outlanders are scouts.

Aliens appear in this galaxy, but clearly humans have the upper hand. The aliens are only called aliens, even on their home planet. There Dallas and crew play the “Ugly Americans” and shoot their way out of jail.

Fortunately, they redeem themselves when mercenaries open fire on a band of catlike primitives. They even adopt one who promptly falls in love with Dallas, just like Mariah and every other woman who gets a look at him.

Technology is a tricky subject in stories set in the future. Almost no one's vision of the future is identical. But one thing is certain; things three thousand years in the future will be at least as different from today as things were three thousand years in the past. So, while I have no doubt something like Wi-Fi and GPS will exist three thousand years in the future, using those exact terms seems jarringly current, not futuristic.

Force fields exist in this universe, but they don't stop a shotgun blast. Presumably, there's no force in a shotgun blast. But the quantum torpedo is a clever bit of future technology—at least I have never heard of it before. It's a bomb that blows up time and space. How cool is that!

There are a few curiosities, like “An hour passed one second at a time as he waited.” Or “wallah” as an alternate spelling of “voila”.

I like Parker's writing; I’m not in love with the characters. They're not badly written, but flirting with each other in the middle of a battle seems unprofessional. Outside of Star Trek and Doctor Who, I find a lot of sci-fi pretentious. “Five Moons” is not. It's very readable and fun.

4 stars.


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