At the end of May I told you about a free online ebook that you could download and enjoy direct from the author. Simon Haynes was then kind enough to send me printed copies of the first three Hal Spacejock books for a review and discussion here.
I’ve just finished reading the second book in his series and overall I’m quite impressed with Simon and his protagonist Hal. The premise is simple: To write satirical comedy science fiction lampooning most of the rest of the genre. How hard could that be really? I was skeptical at first, but after reading the first six chapters online over lunch one day I was certain I needed to at least give it a chance. It’s certainly not for everyone, especially the purists and hard science fans, but for most people with a wide variety of tastes and tolerances it’s a great choice for vacation reading.
Summary: Snarky robots, bumbling pilots, tonnes of silly humour and Deus ex Machina at every turn make Hal Spacejock a perfect summer beach book for those in need of a good chuckle. Australia’s Simon Haynes successfully lampoons the bedrock of science fiction themes and doesn’t take himself seriously… at all.
Hal is a bumbling ‘pilot’ who relies 100% on his navcom to run his decrepit ship the ‘Black Gull’. Easily tricked and confused he wanders through life turning down jobs while he complains about not having any money. When he is in desperate need of cash to save his ship from loan sharks he grudgingly takes on a job that involves taking an ancient pilot robot named Clunk to a recycling yard. Clunk quickly becomes friends with Hal and becomes his sidekick for the rest of the series.
I won’t get into the plots of either book in detail, as their sheer concept is part of the overall satire. I will say that they are full of references to excrement, and jab after jab at any author that has ever used Deus ex Machina to set up or solve a plot element. Coincidence doesn’t even begin to describe that happens in these books.
Of the two I’ve read so far (and I’m going to start the third tonight) the second is much better and is the reason for the 4/5 rating here. The first book is a 3/5 (fun and entertaining) in my mind, but it does set up a lot of relationships so it’s worthwhile. Fortunately there is minimal requirement to read the first book before the second. They’re both entertaining, but the first has some ‘newbie’ author flaws that stand out a bit. These flaws don’t take away from the story itself, but they do have the possibility of drawing you out of the imaginary place that is Spacejock’s universe which can be annoying.
I do have a few very minor warnings for people looking to put their money into these books based on my review here. First, you will need to read these books with an open mind and an understanding of why they were written to enjoy them. If you try and take them too seriously you’ll hate them, but if you grok Hal, you’ll love them. Second, they are great for teenagers who you want hooked on SciFi. Remember that in mind if you don’t have the mind of a teenager. I’m 30, but I liked them anyway. Third, they do contain the occasional swear word, but are otherwise family friendly in terms of content.
Lastly, I agree with the author’s website when it claims “If you enjoy TV shows like the Young Ones, Firefly, Blackadder, Red Dwarf and Dr Who, or books by Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt or Jasper Fforde, then the bestselling Hal Spacejock series is for you.” Yup, that sums it up nicely.
So, if you haven’t already, why not read the first book for free? Simon and his publisher put it out there for you to sample and see if this satirical universe is really meant for you or not. You owe yourself at least that much… Don’t you?
When you’re done reading, come back here and let’s chat about it.