Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Achilles, Redshirts and Kop Killers

The Song of Achilles
Madeline Miller
Ecco, Mar 6 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780062060617

Prince Patroclus’ father King Menoitius is unhappy with his simple wife and disappointed with his only offspring. The lad cannot compete in anything even against younger children. When he is nine years old his father takes him to court Helen the daughter of King Tyndarus of Sparta. Other royals also arrive while King Odysseus of Ithaca suggests Helens elect her mate so war can be averted. Helen selects Menelaus. Back home Clysonymus tries to bully Patroclus who pushes back killing the lad. Menoitius exiles Patrochlus to King Peleus of Phthia where he meets Prince Achilles.

They become best buddies, which angers Achilles’ mother Thetis the sea nymph. When Agamemnon calls for supporters to recapture Helen from Troy, Patroclus and Achilles join the siege. However, Achilles knows his destiny will soon begin to become the greatest warrior ever; as predicted by his mother and affirmed in a warning by his instructor Master Chiron the centaur. Patroclus plans to accompany Achilles when they begin the latter’s Odyssey.

This is not a direct rewrite of Homer's Iliad at least not until the second half of the plot. Instead the engaging storyline fills in the blanks with the focus predominantly on Achilles and Patroclus (which is not a shocker since the latter tells the tale) though all of Homer’s players are involved. In many ways Troy takes a backseat to the loving relationship of the two BFFs while clever Odysseus steals the show. He sums up love and war in ancient mythological Greece with his saying he has a wife that he has not seen in a decade and whom may be dead but if nothing else he prays he spends eternity with her in the Underworld. Harriet Klausner

John Scalzi
Tor Books, June 5 2012, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765316998

In 2456, Ensign Andrew Dahl is euphoric to learn he has been assigned to the Universal Union starship Intrepid to work in the xenobiology laboratory on the journey on Away Missions. Dahl notices that veterans hide whenever the bridge chooses staff to work a mission and that ship Captain Abernathy, science officer Q'eeng and astrogator Kerensky always join these deadly assignments. Additionally, usually at least one of the junior officers drafted for these tasks die while Abernathy and Q'eeng return without a scratch ready for the next assignment and Kerensky though battered joins them.

Dahl and others investigate what is going on when they meet a crew member hiding. He explains that the Intrepid’s enterprises adhere to old scripts based on the principal "to boldly go where no man has gone before"; which means death for support cast who fail to boldly go into hiding.

This is an engaging lighthearted metafiction that obviously satirizes Star Trek. The storyline is lighthearted fun but never quite gels. Still fans who enjoy something different will appreciate the crew’s avoidance mantra as they know on all Away Missions, one of them must die. Harriet Klausner

KOP Killer
Warren Hammond
Tor, June 5 2012, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765328274

In 2789 on planet Lagarto, Juno Mozambe was once a dirty Koba Office of Police cop who was an enforcer for the chief. He loved his wife who finally killed her abusive drug kingpin father before turning to drugs to numb her guilt. When she died, Juno’s life fell apart.

Mozambe decides to destroy Emil Mota, who is using KOP as his personal profit maker. To defeat the influential Mota, Mozambe decides to fight fire with fire. With other dirties, he opens up a hire a thug firm waiting for the moment to end Mota’s stranglehold only to find mangled murders haunting him as his deadly foe sends his dirties to kill Mozambe and his partners.

This futuristic science fiction crime thriller (see KOP and Ex-KOP) is darker than the Big Sleep that places the planet in several weeks of no daylight. Action-packed, fans will enjoy Mozambe’s Dirty Harry twenty-eighth century beat; as he takes the war to the enemy with each side using any means possible as neither man has any concern over collateral damage. Harriet Klausner

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