Book Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson and The White Ghost by James R. Benn

Willful ChildWillful Child
Steven Erikson
Tor, November 2014
ISBN 978-0-7653-7489-9

Star Trek meets Futurama in this sci fi send up by Steven Erickson, author of the Malagan Book of the Fallen series. Terran Space Fleet Captain Hadrian Alan Sawback, commander of the Engage class starship Willful Child, is on a routine shake down cruise in search of smugglers. His new crew includes Chief of Security, Adjutant Lorrin Tighe; Chief Medical Officer, a Belkri called Printlip, with six arms and three legs; the beautiful and dark-skinned First Commander Halley Sin-Dour; square jawed and buff Communications Lieutenant Jimmy Eden; Chief Engineer Buck DeFrank; Combat Specialist Galk, a Varekan; and clueless Lieutenant Jocelyn Sticks, who gushes, “Like, it’s all very exciting.” Upon reviewing his crew, Captain Sawbuck “wondered if selecting certain bridge officers on the basis of their file photos was perhaps somewhat careless.”

It’s all good fun when the Willful Child embarks on a journey into Unknown Space, where the original mission is abandoned when the Captain encounters oversexed extraterrestrials, a time machine, and an artificial intelligence with gender issues. Can Captain Sawbuck, the spray tanned leader with the killer smile, save the Affiliation of Civilized Planets from an alien invasion?

Star Trek fans will appreciate the many sly references to the original series, but any science fiction readers who enjoy a large helping of humor, like Robert Asprin’s books, will find much to like about Willful Child.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, September 2015.


The White GhostThe White Ghost
A Billy Boyle World War II Mystery #10
James R. Benn
Soho Crime, September 2015
ISBN: 978-1-61695-511-3

The Billy Boyle World War II mystery series presents the reader with a double whammy:  A thoroughly researched story about the period combined with an excellent crime tale.  Until this novel, the series has concentrated on the European Theater of Operations where Billy, a Boston detective in civilian life, serves on the staff of General Eisenhower’s Supreme Command, tracing the progress of the war from North Africa through Sicily, Italy and, finally, the Normandy invasion.  For a change of pace, this novel takes Billy and his sidekick, Kaz, to the South Pacific.

The impetus for this sudden development is at the behest of Joe Kennedy, who pulls strings to have Billy investigate a murder in the Solomon Islands.  The reason for Billy’s selection derives from the fact that the body was discovered by Jack Kennedy, who was recovering after the loss of PT 109.  The Boyles and the Kennedys had a history back in Boston and the theory was that if Billy exonerated Jack as the perpetrator it would not be questioned, and if he accused the future President of murder it would be the result of a grudge.

The novel develops into more than a historical recounting or a mystery with a detailed look at the war operations in the Solomons, which were occupied by both U.S. and Japanese forces, on land, sea and in the air.  And a rousing finish with Billy and Kaz in the middle of a firefight between marines and Japanese infantry.  All the novels in the series are equally enjoyable, and The White Ghost is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2015.


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