Monday, December 26, 2016

The Yanthus Prime Job

It looks like this blog may just be turning into a book review blog.  Things are pretty crazy right now what with the audio book recording, trying to finish "Five Dragons" before the end of the year - a long shot, to be honest - cranking away on a couple of sooper seekrit projects that will be revealed in the new year or forever hidden...oh, and family and overtime in the salt mines. 

Those are all excuses.  To be honest, in the last few months I've just been thrilled to discover great writer after great writer.  Reading Cirsova, and finding a couple of great social nodes on Twitter, have introduced me to a number of great writers.  It's an embarrassment of riches.  Combine that with technology that allows me to sneak in a chapter or two at lunch or in quiet moments at work, and it's almost embarrassing how much reading I've been able to accomplish over the last few month.

Eventually things change, as they are wont to do, and you may find things in these spaces other than reviews.  You know, things like politics, film, writing, wargaming...I do miss wargaming...and philosophy.  But for now, it's books, Books, BOOKS!
 Why, lookee here!  It's another book.  Not just another book, but another @RobKroese book.  Remember when I said, "[Starship Grifter is] just not my cuppa joe."?

Yeah...about that.

The Yanthus Prime Job is a novella for a dollar.  It's short.  It's fun.  It's protagonist has the standard, "one last job" motivation, but we all know that for characters like this, there's always another job waiting just around the corner.  A writer's gotta eat, after all.

This title is set in the same universe as Starship Grifters, and it features the same sorts of characters - grifters, conmen, and thieves.  The protagonist of this work is a bartender trying to go straight after a career working for the Ursa Minor Mafia*.  Deep in debt, she hatches a plot to steal a valuable thing and use the proceeds to buy her way out of debt to the mafia and escape Yanthus Prime for parts unknown. 

The story is half standard heist, half science-fiction.  The heist is easily recognizable from movies ranging from the 1940s to today - break into a secure museum and steal a valuable macGuffin - but includes several clever science-fiction nods.  Her (sort of?) low tech solution to defeat the standard high-tech security measures is the sort of plan that could only work in science-fiction or fantasy.  Otherwise, most of her gear (grapple guns, chameleon suits, and plasma glass cutters, for example) is the standard thief kit.  Aside from the key plot-point used to defeat the security cameras, the break-in and escape could be plunked into any setting.  That's actually a compliment.  Rather than succumb to the temptation to make everything whiz-bang gee-whillickers new SF you've never seen before, Kroese wisely stops while the stopping is good.  The hook is all you need.

If you've watched a lot of heist movies, you'll see a few of the double and triple crosses coming a mile away, but there are enough surprises left in Kroese's pockets to make it worth reading through to the end.

  *  Get it?  Ursa Minor Mafia?  Ursa means "bear".  It's the Russians.  Kroese has a gift for nomenclature that is downright Futuramaian.  I mean, the man has a book out called Shrodingers Gat, for crying out loud.  How can you not love that?



  1. I wish I knew how to even ask, but I'll try:

    Is less endless parade of ridiculous circumstances met with incompetence overcome by coincidence and more the bounty hunter lady just being awesome but with funny and clever prose?

  2. The latter. This is a straigjt jewel heist with a sci-fi schtick. Everyone, except the Malarchy leader and his goons, is far more grounded and 'real' than what you saw in Rex Nihilo.

  3. This is Catwoman or Fujiko Mine in space. Tech, competence, and a little charm to overcome her weaknesses. And, remarkably, it is charm, and not blatant sex appeal cranked up to 11. While Starship Grifters wasn't my cup of tea, I would read another Pepper Melange story.

  4. What Nate said. While pepper is a thief and hardly has a heart of gold, for the most part she tries to do right by the decent people she encounters. Saying more would spoil one of the fun surprises, so suffice it to say she finds a way to turn a jewel heist into a very good deed.