Assignment: out there

We open with a paragraph that’s actually about halfway through:

«In any bar, in fact in any civilized establishment, in this volume of the void,» the barkeep said, punctuating the phrase with the thunk of another pitcher on the polished wood, «a being may call out the word “beer” in the Trade language, accompanied by the appropriate number of digits or other appendages, and depend upon being served appropriately. How is it that your people cannot achieve this minimal accomplishment?»

Passages like this are the strength of Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty, an ebook that seems to start out wanting to be a rollicking space opera, but won’t settle for the cardboard characters that usually inhabit that genre. Life among the lower ranks, as those of us who served terrestrial duty can tell you, may indeed put you at the mercy of forces you cannot control, but it doesn’t make you the sort of disposable individual that, for instance, Star Trek condemned to brief existence inside red shirts.

However, it’s not all thrills either:

The waves made wave sounds, the beach smelled like a beach, and the sun shone. If it hadn’t been for the red and yellow trees along the backshore they could have been somewhere around Mayport. “God damn space,” Todd complained. “Oughta be bug-eyed monsters ‘n all that.”

You want B.E.M.s, though, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. What Locke has put together here is a detailed look at how several different species approach the task of getting along, whether those in command want to or not. And then over the P.A.: “Make ready for unfriendly visitors.” Turns out, “cooperate or die” makes a pretty good incentive. And the scariest creature of them all, who shows up near the very end — never mind, I won’t spoil it for you, but trust me: scary.

And you know, a rollicking space opera is nothing to sneer at, even especially if you’re not quite sure exactly when it began to rollick. There’s really no obvious opening for a sequel, but I have to hope Locke returns to this universe once more.

(Amazon link to Kindle version. Reviewed from PDF copy.)


  1. McGehee »

    27 June 2011 · 8:47 am

    I’m reading it now (on my iPhone thanks to the Kindle app). Very well-conceived and well-written.

  2. Ted »

    27 June 2011 · 10:04 am

    Just picked it up based on this. I love a good space opera.

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