Reviews,  SJardine

Willful Child by Steven Erikson : Review


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’.

I really wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy Willful Child when I received it, I do not read that much sci-fi, and while I’m in the middle of reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan books, I’m not a huge fan. It took me awhile to get started on the book because of those two facts, and I’m a little upset with myself for waiting so long to start it. The first thing I remember feeling after finishing it, was a little bit of shock at a science fiction book that didn’t take itself too seriously.

One of the most important things to mention here–at least to me, is that Willful Child was nothing like anything Erikson has written before, its hard to believe it was written by the same author. First of all, while it was not a simple book, it was a really easy book to get into and read. You don’t sit there  trying to piece together exactly whats going on in the  world, it’s laid out pretty clearly in the beginning. I was happy to be reading an Erikson book with a learning curve that wasn’t too steep.

Willful Child follows the exploits of the incorrigible Captain Hadrian Sawback and his ill-chosen crew aboard the A.S.F Willful Child on a mission to seek out and stop a smuggling operation in the Blarad System. It only takes you a handful of paragraphs before you realize this book is one giant Star Trek parody, and that is about where I first started laughing so hard I choked. Hadrian Sawback is quite possibly the best and worst starship captain I have ever read about. If the fact that he crewed his ship with a mix of incompetent family members and buxom women doesn’t give you that feeling right away, the suspicion you’ll probably get right away is that he most likely lied and cheated his way through officers school to get his ship probably will.

The best thing I think I can really say about this book is just how funny I found it to be, I laughed my entire read through it. First you have the sexist Captain Hadrian who probably picked his crew out of a modelling catalog. Then there is the ridiculous sounding, yet almost believable technology they use. Instead of using some sort of teleportation device they use the Insisteon, which doesn’t teleport you to another ship, but argues with the universe and insists that: no Captain Hadrian is not on his ship anymore, he is already on that ship, and the universe just needs to accept that fact.

I don’t think there is anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to, whether or not they are a fan of the genre and author. The cleverly played humor and the well-written story is enough to make Willful Child more than enjoyable by anyone. If Erikson doesn’t make a sequel, I’m going to be more than disappointed, I’ve already checked several times to see if one has been mention yet.

Willful Child is scheduled to be published November 4th by Tor Books.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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  • Peter Halasz

    Uh huh. This review is spot on so I’m not going to comment on the review per se.

    However, re: ” I’m in the middle of reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan books, I’m not a huge fan.”
    Why not try “entering” Malazan via the novellas originally published by PS Publishing and available here from Tor. They put Erikson’s sly humour on display to good effect. Not the same type of humour that is found in Willful Child but a gratifying more – much more – subtle one.

    And, re: ” If Erikson doesn’t make a sequel, I’m going to be more than disappointed”
    I, for one, hope you will be disappointed. If Erikson writes another comic sf novel I’d prefer he take the piss out of another sf media franchise. Star Wars anyone?

    • SJardine

      I’ve tried the novella’s as well. This is really just a series I can’t seem to get into. I’m going to keep trying though. Everyone tells me its worth it.

      A parody of another series would be awesome. Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, something!

  • romeorites

    Phew! Im so pleased you enjoyed this, as It is one of my next book to read and review. And although I have the Malazan series waiting to also be reviewed. This is going to be my first Erikson read.

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