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Hal Spacejock (Hal Spacejock Series) Paperback – 1 Jun 2012
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About the Author
Simon Haynes was born in England and grew up in Spain, where he enjoyed an amazing childhood of camping, motorbikes, air rifles and paper planes. His family moved to Australia when he was 16. Simon divides his time between writing fiction and computer software, with frequent bike rides to blow away the cobwebs. His goal is to write fifteen Hal books (Spacejock OR Junior!) before someone takes his keyboard away.
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Basic premise is that there's this thing called "space" and that chaps fly about in it in ships and such. Naturally, some of these chaps are down on their luck and still workin' for a livin', transportin' cargo and whatnot. Depressin' premise if you ask me but there you go and, anyway, the neat trick that this Simon Haynes fellow pulls off is to make one actually quite give a fig in re the fate of the central um, er - chappie, this "Hal" person.
Odd sort of trick since I thought that Mr Haynes only wrote those books on how to take domestic motor vehicles apart and put 'em back together again, but there you go.
Book's a fairly full-sized beastie (like the memsahiba these days) and the language is quite cheerful (and here we lose the similarities to "She-who" who now merely silently bares her teeth and points at food items with a fork). The book is absolutely suitable, for example, for handin' on to the senior below-stairs staff, if any of them read. There's nothing to raise an ecclesiastical eyebrow or support a blood and thunder sermon.
The plot - and there is indeed a plot, and a marvellous one at that - stumbles wonderfully on from disaster to disaster with only the key changing from major to minor and back again. The perversity of Hal's surroundings and of his situation in general will engender, not to put too fine a point on it, shovel-loads of empathy from ANY bloke who has EVER tried to be self-employed, even at mere ground-level. The feeling encouraged in one's innards may be likened to that emotional roller-coaster experienced when queuing for the portaloos at the Vegan Chilli & Beans All-You-Can-Eat Festival in Poonah, except that here it is expressed in literary terms.
If your life is a litany of personal also-rans and continual tragic near-misses then this book, these books, these characters and their circumstances will make you cringe and squirm with empathy - and laugh out loud because, let's face it, the only other option is tears, an empty decanter and the old service Webley. If you've spent every day of your life (since the midwife gave you that first carefully-judged obstetric uppercut to the chin) trying to do the right thing and being thwarted like a human pin-ball ball, you'll love this book. If, like any chap of my era who was abandoned by both parents at conception, you went through the whole wishing you were Dan Dare and Biggles thing and now wish for something updated, present-day future with humour, then you've found it here.
I can't praise these volumes highly enough. Plug your interwebnetting coin-purse into the usb socket and purchase with confidence (and with money; you will need the money).
Be warned, there were several places where I laughed out loud. That is rare and added even more to my enjoyment of the book.
I can't wait to read the rest of the series and his other books.
Lovers of hard core SF will probably not be too pleased with this book; it is much more about the humour than the science. There is a considerable slapstick element to the plot, which put me in mind of some of the Harry Harrison "Stainless Steel Rat" stories. There is also a slightly manic quality to some of the dialogue; a bit like parts of "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" although a bit less surreal.
I found it entertaining, although I think that the narrative could be polished up a bit. But not bad overall and an enjoyable read. I would certainly think about checking out some of the other stories as I think that the basic story line has promise, and it will be interesting to see how the author develops the various characters.
Suitable for teenagers and above, and a decent read for a Sunday afternoon.
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