Willful Child by Steven Erikson – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Willful Child is a standalone science fiction parody novel from popular fantasy author Steven Erikson, responsible for the epic Malazan series. You can find this novel published by Tor.
“A fun, entertaining Star Trek parody that is consistently entertaining and accessible to all fans of Space Opera, whether they’ve seen Star Trek or not.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
These are the voyages 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 life-forms, to boldly blow the…
And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback – a kind of James T Kirk crossed with ‘American Dad’ – 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 bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his life-long 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-hi-tech-kit-along-the-way type over-blown adventure. The result is this smart. inventive, occasionally wildly OTT and often very funny novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.
Steven Erikson is an author who is commonly associated with epic fantasy and whilst I haven’t had the chance to get stuck into his Malazan series yet, it’s certainly high on my to-read list. When I saw this novel crop up on NetGalley as a standalone space opera there was no way I was going to pass this one by with all the hype that I had heard about Erikson’s work, and it would be interesting to get a sampler of what his fiction would be like. As it turns out, Willful Child was not quite what I was expecting from the author of the Malazan series, but despite this, it turned out o be an incredibly fun and entertaining read that pokes fun not just at Star Trek, but at the space opera genre entirely.
Captain Hadrian Sawback, our main character, is described in the blurb as being a blend of James T. Kirk and American Dad, which couldn’t be more accurate, as he steers the ASF Willful Child into strange new worlds yet to be discovered by the Terran population. He’s an interesting choice for a lead character that’s handled very well. Erikson constantly injects a high level of humour into the narrative and as a result the book feels incredibly fun. It’s an over-the-top space adventure that should not be ignored with several moments that had me chuckling out loud as I was reading this novel. It’s fast paced as well, and will have you turning the pages to get to the finish line.
With all the dark and serious stuff that I’ve been reading lately, Willful Child came as a welcome surprise. It’s light hearted, fun and is actually honestly funny, which makes a real change from the amount of comedies on TV that I’ve watched recently that have failed to amuse me (pretty much the only one that I watch on a regular basis and can make me laugh out loud more than once per episode is Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and as a result I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what Erikson can come up with next. I know his Malazan novels are nothing like Willful Child, but the fact that this novel is as good as it was may have raised the Malazan novels up my To-Buy list.
The book itself examines several science fiction clichés and not just ones commonly associated with Star Trek. It’s a parody, yet still feels like it can hold its own weight as a space opera novel. The comedy is the revealing aspect of the novel however, so if you want a serious take on space opera I’d recommend searching for another book. However, if you want to be entertained, then you’ve most certainly come to the right place.
Even so, I’d offer a warning before starting Willful Child – not every comedy is for everyone and Steven Erikson’s novel is no different. So expect to see a few hit and miss reviews from this book if you were to look elsewhere.
It’s not quite going to fit into my top novels of the year category, but Steven Erikson’s latest novel is something that comes recommended. Fans of space opera and the original Star Trek series will probably get the most out of this one, but even if you’re not, you could do far worse than this book.