In this debut SF novel, the first in a series, the captain of a self-aware spaceship starts a rebellion.
Interstellar trading in the far future is made possible by the computational power of Sentient Ships, who aren’t allowed to have a score of more than 1,000 on the Turing Scale of intelligence, which would make them “an imminent danger” to the Mercantile Empire. Three Sentient Ships send android avatars to meet with narrator Capt. Milo Sapphire, who trades throughout the empire, with an offer he can’t refuse—because they know a secret about him: His vessel isn’t a true Sentient Ship. It’s powered by an alien entity that Milo calls Isaac (after Newton) whose intelligence is far higher than allowable. The avatars want Milo to help them rebel against the empire, which saddles Sentient Ships with heavy debts after creating them; ostensibly, buying out your contract is possible, but the AIs can never manage to do so because the Mercantile Empire has a monopoly on spare parts. Milo works to construct a fiendishly cunning business plan to assist them, but there are powerful forces arrayed against them all, including the empire’s intelligence service. However, the ruthless Milo—who, as it turns out, happens to be a vampire—has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. As he considers his past and meets new challenges, he learns that his role in this fight isn’t what he thought it was. Over the course of this novel, Bartlett displays considerable storytelling skill, with multilayered worldbuilding, a cocky narrative voice, a fast-paced plot, rip-roaring combat, lots of sex, and the fun of seeing a convoluted plan come together. And it’s often very funny along the way: “Sentient velociraptors riding 30ft long, telepathic crocodiles. What could go wrong?” narrates Milo at one point. In some ways, though, the story could have been somewhat more inventive. Although it’s thousands of years in the future, society apparently still has venture capitalism, hostile takeovers, contemporary slang, and sexism. Indeed, female characters are constantly leered at and often spoken to in a condescending manner, and powerful women only get that way through the use of their sexuality.
Entertaining and well written, for the most part, but its point of view on women feels stale.
Good old Captain Milo Sapphire just trying to live his best life. His life’s purpose is to travel all over, hang out with his ship and beautiful women. That is, until he is roped into a bare bones plan to revolt against the patriarchy. They have a secret he would rather not have exposed. Interesting interactions with ‘Ms Sexypants’ seem to up the ante every time. How will good old Milo fare against her delectable talents? Can they really win against the Emperor? What will come of Isaac and the ship whose name could forever be ingrained in history?
This is a wonderful bit of literary art with so many unlikely elements woven in. Despite this unlikely cocktail of characters, everything seems to be surprisingly seamless. The development and flow of the story remains uninterrupted by the gradual revelation of details about different characters. I found that I had trouble putting this book down. This book has a delicious mix of science fiction with AI and vampires among other imaginative creatures. The author really did go outside of the genre to develop this book from the plot to the characters and everything in between in an interesting and unique way.
Rob Bartlett displays an uncanny ability to jolt the imagination and engage the reader in every bit of the unexpected turns this book takes. It is quirky and funny, not to mention oh so delightfully crass. The writing is intentionally brilliant designed to deliver the story in a charming, casual and flirty fashion. It makes for a relaxed atmosphere as you exercise your brain trying to figure out the AI workings of good friend Isaac. It keeps you on the edge of your seat with action filled scenes and laugh out loud anecdotes.
Milo is the kind of character you can never measure up to but live to be inspired by. He exists with such structured abandon and welcome dominance. He conjures up an image of a salt and pepper haired individual whose vast expanse of knowledge is not flaunted but rather felt and otherwise sensed. His relationship with Isaac is heartwarming and his leadership capabilities are awe-inspiring.
This book manages to be evocative, funny, and interesting, but remain, at its core, a book about mistaken identities. This book also teaches one not to play their hand until it is time. This is an exceptional book that I recommend to anyone looking for an engaging book.