Science fiction is, at times, pretty serious stuff. We try, as readers, to wrap our minds around the evolution of history in terms of how we live and how technology has changed. At times this can be deep and thought-provoking material that challenges us to work with ideas and concepts that are radically different from what we are used to. G.J. Koch, in contrast, takes a much easier path to tell the story of roguish hero Alexander Outland and his spaceship crew. Instead of investing time and energy in the nitty-gritty of how things have changed between our present and Koch’s future, she spends time on the characters, the action, and the relationships that tie them all together. It’s…. fun!
Alexander Outland is a space pirate. He’s not really a bad guy; he just doesn’t want to work hard enough to be successful in a career, so he steals from others who are successful. He isn’t a Robin Hood who robs from the rich to help the poor; in fact in the entire story, we never see him rob anyone. The dashing Outland is also ladies’ man. Everywhere he goes, he leaves behind a string of broken hearts and angry men. That’s a problem when he has to return to certain planets — there may be several women there who are still mad at him. Another amusing sidelight are the constant quotes, which cover all sorts of relevant subjects, that Outland recalls his Great-Aunt Clara saying.
Outland is smart, a great pilot, loyal to his friends and something of a lech, but he is not smart enough to stay out of trouble. As he and his crew are landing on a planet to pick up a legitimate cargo to earn money, they are forced to flee because the local authorities are not very happy to see Alexander Outland again. The plot begins as Outland runs to a different star system and is attacked by a group of invisible ships that have blockaded the local planet, Herion. After a brief fight with the invisible armada, Outland is forced to land on Herion, where he is basically co-opted to fight the blockade. From one misadventure to the next, Outland jumps from scene to scene through a combination of quick thinking and outright luck. It’s fun, like a comic book or other light-hearted format that focuses less on the science details and more on the action. The plot is a derring-do sort of story that is based on humor, interesting insights into the characters, and all-around excitement. I felt like I was reading a book based on the TV series FIREFLY — the names and characters are nothing alike, but there’s a similar feeling of style and wit over serious dialogue and heavy thinking.
I enjoyed Alexander Outland: Space Pirate because it didn’t ask too much of me. G.J. Koch has the ability to entertain without getting mired in details. Alexander Outland: Space Pirate is recommended as a light read.