I was extremely curious about Willful Child when it was announced that Steven Erikson would be publishing a Star Trek spoof. God knows I've never been a Star Trek fan myself, but I was looking forward to reading Erikson's homage/parody. Considering how fun and humorous the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novellas have always been, such a spoof promised to be hilarious. And Willful Child was just that!
So when I received a galley of the sequel, you can be sure that it went to the top of the pile! This being the second volume and reviewers should now know better, one can only hope that we won't be seeing negative and luke-warm reviews from readers expecting a blistering and fascinating foray into science fiction by the author. How could anyone have had such expectations after reading the cover blurb for the first installment, I'll never know. This book/series was always meant to be a parody. Anyone expecting something dense and thought-provoking, or the Bridgeburners in space, was smoking some pretty potent stuff. To those who thoroughly enjoyed Willful Child, I can tell you that this sequel is just as fun and entertaining as its predecessor.
Here's the blurb:
From New York Times bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new Science Fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous, and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space. The continuing adventures of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the... And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.' The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen series has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an Science Fiction novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.
Steven Erikson has accustomed us to multilayered worldbuilding that resounds with depth, but once again this aspect takes a backseat in this new Star Trek spoof. As was the case in Willful Child, we get just enough to keep the story moving forward. This is a parody/comedy and nothing gets in the way of the rhythm so that the jokes and weird/funny situations keep on coming. And believe you me: They keep on coming! It appears that Erikson was gunning for at least a laugh/chuckle on every single page and it's pretty much what we get. Once more, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty isn't a work that takes itself too seriously and it's a joyride from start to finish!
Following the hilarious misadventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback continues to be a riot. Sexist, incompetent, rude, too full of himself, and downright dumb at times, it's nonetheless impossible not to root for the poor guy. In every way, the man remains an over-the-top parody of the memorable Captain Kirk. Old-fashioned sexism, racism, and xenophobia often characterize his character, making him a throwback male protagonist from the 60S or the 70s. The Affiliation and Fleet Command have had it with Sawback due to the events chronicled in the first book, and they send the charismatic Captain Hans Olo of the AFS Century Warbler and A.C.P. Security Field Agent Rand Humblenot to shadow the Willful Child and make sure that they can be there to take action whenever Captain Sawback screws up again. And to speed up the man's demise if the opportunity were to present itself. The rest of the supporting cast is comprised of incompetent crew members and a number of buxom female officers hand-picked by the captain for their looks and nothing else, as well as the recalcitrant chicken AI Tammy, and a few odd aliens along the way. Between Sawback and his incredibly inept crew, an AI from the future who wishes to see its captain fail miserably, Affiliation officers bent on orchestring Sawback's military and personal downfall, and friendly and not-so-friendly alien species populating known and unknown parts of interstellar space, how could things possibly go well for the Willful Child and its crew? Follow them on another unexpected and fun-filled journey across time, space and dimensions!
By removing much of the depth and the details that have come to define Erikson's fantasy works, like its predecessor Willful Child: Wrath of Betty is another fast-paced novel. There is never a dull moment within its pages. Too quickly do we reach the end of the book and here's to hoping that there will be yet another sequel down the line. Although I much prefer Steven Erikson's Malazan installments, occasional fun romps like these last two wacky science fiction parodies are like a breath of fresh air that show a totally different side of the author. Time will tell just how many of these fun and entertaining scifi comedies Erikson can get away with. But as things stand, I'm persuaded that fans will clamor for yet more adventures featuring the inimitable Captain Hadrian Sawback and his crew as the voyage of the Willful Child continues.
If you are looking for a light and hilarious science fiction spoof, then Willful Child: Wrath of Betty will definitely scratch that itch! This Star Trek parody/homage, with a number of Star Wars references thrown in for good measure, continues to work incredibly well. I, for one, am looking forward to whatever comes next!