cover image Willful Child

Willful Child

Steve Erikson. Tor, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7489-9

Bestselling fantasy writer Erikson (the Malazan Book of the Fallen series) takes a break from gritty epic fantasy to deliver this heavy-handed Star Trek parody. Capt. Hadrian Alan Sawback, commander of the Terran Space Fleet starship Willful Child, is pugnacious and perpetually one half-step away from a sexual harassment suit. His ship’s ongoing mission is “hairy, fraught, and on occasion insanely dangerous,” a good match for a captain who can’t abide the “hell of routine.” When a rogue AI named Tammy commandeers the Willful Child’s computers, Sawback and crew dive headlong into adventures beyond the Known Rim, encountering officially designated “Strange New Worlds” replete with vaguely Greek looking ruins, mysterious portals, Muppet-like aliens, and even a super-chicken soldier in a mechanized battle suit. After decades of humorous commentary on Star Trek, most recently John Scalzi’s award-winning Redshirts, Sawback and his crew come very late to the party. That tardiness, coupled with heavy-handed plotting and thinly sketched characters, make this feel more like a parody of parodies (particularly Futurama’s egomaniacal Captain “Zap” Brannigan) than a satire of the show itself. (Nov.)