The SPSFC started with 300 books and narrowed it down to 30 semi-finalists. I’ll be reviewing every semi-finalist, as well as several books from other group’s slush piles that looked interesting to me.
Captain Wu: Starship Nameless #1 by Patrice Fitzgerald and Jack Lyster
Captain Wu is the eponymous character in this delightful space adventure. She’s a smuggler and a tough fighter, and she’s assembled a motley crew of like-minded individuals who travel with her across the stars. They’re quickly on the run, though, as they get some cargo that might be a bit too dangerous for them to have wanted to carry if they’d known about it.
I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters fairly quickly. It’s got real found family vibes, but there’s also actual family as Captain Wu’s granddaughter shows up. What? Her granddaughter? Yes, the lead character here is a grandma, not some teenager with a chosen one quest (okay, I actually quite enjoy chosen one narratives, but only reading them would get boring eventually). The diversity in this book isn’t just diversity of orientation, race, or species, but also age, which is somehow almost rarer than some of the other ones. It’s a wonderful thing to see characters from different generations interact, and do some in such winsome and often hilarious ways.
Most of the plot involves Wu &co. racing across the stars, sometimes a step ahead of their pursuers, sometimes a step behind. It checks a lot of the boxes for what you’d expect from a space adventure, but like many of those you’ve enjoyed, it is wonderful not because of originality, necessarily, but because of the very well the story is told. You’re going for the crew through and through, and they grow on you more as the book goes on.
There are some great action scenes here, too. One especially memorable scene has a character in a spacesuit trying to blast off a grappling hook with a “potato gun.” I’ll let you imagine the details, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a kind of fierce inventiveness that carries the book even as some of the “trope” boxes get checked. It’s a great way to balance the sometime predictability of the novel with some humorous and delightful moments.
Captain Wu is a hugely enjoyable space adventure. I highly recommend it to readers.
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