Book Title: Captain Wu: a space opera adventure – Starship Nameless, Book 1
Editor: Richard Leslie
Publication Date: February 15, 2021
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Captain Leanne Wu, a sixty-something Asian woman is on the run after a job goes sour when she tries to deliver an unusual book to her buyers and things go drastically wrong! After her crew extricates her from this predicament, they find themselves on the run from mysterious aliens, underworld organizations, and even the galactic government’s Commonwealth!
Racing across space and trying to stay one step ahead of everyone who is hunting them, Captain Wu and her crew try to figure out what this book is and why everyone wants it so badly. Adding a layer or three of complication is that Wu’s wily thirteen-year-old granddaughter has snuck aboard and wants to spend time with her. Trying to keep Lily safe while on the run, will the entire crew be able to escape unscathed or die trying in the process?
The plot is fast-paced, and the action keeps moving. Wu and her crew continue to try to find a safe place to hide while attempting to figure out this mystery. The action, either on a planet, in space, or on her ship is always enthralling and I could never tell if everyone would escape unscathed or if someone would get injured or even die.
Each time she gets into a fight, either initiated on her own or through someone else’s machinations, I didn’t what would happen to who or when. Would they escape whoever is pursuing them? After all, there are a lot of different groups and organizations after her. Which one will catch up to her first?
This strange book is the key to something important but Wu doesn’t know what that is. Thinking there’s a big payday to be had, she keeps trying. But the more she digs, the more trouble she gets into! Through each seedy dive or hole in the wall she and her crew hide in, they can’t stay off the grid for long.
There’s also the question of their finances, which aren’t great. They don’t have much in the way of financial resources, so money is always a question. How do they get some, so Wu can pay for fuel and provisions for the crew? No fuel means no way to run. This question dogs the crew of the Starship Nameless wherever they go and is a big factor in the plans they make as well as their attempts to escape and stay safe.
As for the Commonwealth, it’s a galactic-wide organization that patrols the universe. They have gigantic, powerful cruisers that travel the space lanes and enforce its laws. On the surface, it looks like a genteel organization looking to keep the galaxy safe for everyone. But underneath the surface, it seems like they have subtle but hidden control over all the important aspects of a galaxy-wide economy. Their influence appears to be felt far and wide. So why would they bother with her small operation?
Power consumption, weapons production, Gate technology, governance of the planets, and more. The more I read, the more I realized this group looks good to the public but seems to have more nefarious agendas lurking out of sight. This creates more of a threat than you might think, and Wu has her hands full trying to outwit them and everyone else chasing her.
As the story unfolds, we learn more about each of the characters in between and even during all the action. Captain Wu is brash, but intelligent, witty but serious when she needs to be and is quite a scrappy and skilled fighter. She can also drink anyone under the table and doesn’t like bullies. She’s quite the underdog but underestimate her at your own peril.
Rev is a human in her thirties and is wise in the ways of the galaxy as well as being a terrific pilot. Then there’s Gillum, a bald man with a bushy beard, who’s really good with technology. Let’s not forget Six, who comes from a long-lived alien race called the Okou. While their body shape is like a simian, there’s more to them than that.
Adding to this is Lilly, Wu’s granddaughter. Together they have a terrific family dynamic, even as Wu doesn’t always set the best example for her. But Lilly is no ordinary teenager and has a lot of computer skills which come in very handy.
The crew is composed of some eccentric personalities of varied skill sets. Their camaraderie is quite charming, and their humor together is very funny. Each one of them brings something important to the table and together, they are a formidable crew.
This is a well fleshed out universe here, with many interesting concepts being utilized. Like how the planet Spark produces much of the power for the galaxy. Using rechargeable batteries for starships, it explains how all power is used in this universe and is part of the larger overall plot, as well as the background of the Commonwealth. It’s not just a throwaway idea and it comes back into play later in the novel, not just in the way you might expect.
Other ideas on how the Gates work impact their ability to stay one step ahead of the law and everyone else chasing them. These Gates connect different parts of the galaxy to one another. It’s better than taking months or years to get to a destination. But there are security checks and even long queue lines waiting to go through one. It’s still a pain in the neck to use, especially when you’re in a hurry.
The science and the explanations on how they work are not just fodder, they’re part of a well-thought-out world, and the rules of all this impact the way Wu operates and tries to escape all the predicaments she finds herself in. The Gate Tech company, basically run by the Commonwealth, has many rules about its Gate technology too.
You can’t have weapons onboard your ship or built into the hull. It’s one of the ways they keep a stranglehold on the galaxy in the name of keeping it safe. But Wu and her crew know how to work around those rules without outright violating them. Well, they try anyway. They just don’t always succeed.
These kinds of thoughtful ideas in the world-building make things more difficult for Wu and the Nameless crew. Being able to work within the restrictions established is one of the many things that makes this such a terrific novel, using these concepts in refreshing and inventive ways. This really enhanced the story and elevates it many steps above your usual space opera adventure into something quite captivating.
About the two co-authors, I’ve read and enjoyed many stories by Patrice Fitzgerald over the years. Her co-author, Jack Lyster, is a fresh and exciting new voice on the science fiction scene. I read his first short story in the “Beyond The Stars: Infinite Expanse” anthology, published by Patrice Fitzgerald. His short story was one I highlighted in my review of that anthology as one of the best of the best. (Our review of his short story and that anthology can be found here). Given room to expand on the concepts he created in that tale, they both now have a trilogy of novels on the way.
Captain Wu isn’t doing what she does to try to make the universe a better place. She’s just a savvy smuggler trying to make her place in the world, make enough money to get by, and keep her crew safe. It’s a smaller story set across a galactic landscape in which larger things are happening and inadvertently gets caught up in the middle of it.
This novel is the first of a trilogy and has a couple of dangling plot threads that promise to make future installments very interesting. It’s a delightful, funny and unpredictably compelling novel. Please, open the Gate and transport me to another fun adventure like this one in the next book!
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about anthologies published by Patrice Fitzgerald include “Beyond the Stars: Infinite Expanse“, “Beyond the Stars – Unimagined Realms,” “Beyond the Stars – Rocking Space” and “Best of Beyond The Stars.”
Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about short stories written by Jack Lyster include “Beyond the Stars: Infinite Expanse“.