In a world of calamity, ineptitude, and moral horror, its good to have light reading. Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese fits the bill for those looking for a beach read or temporary distraction. The novel chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Rex Nihilo and his robot sidekick Sasha. Sasha (short for Self-Arresting near-Sentient Heuristic Adroid) narrates Starship Grifters, aided in part by her inability to lie. This comes in handy, since Rex is unable to tell the truth.
Rex is a con artist, gun runner, and scoundrel. When he’s not gambling, he has a martini in hand and witty rejoinder. If he wasn’t messing up things in the 31st century, he’d most certainly either be a big-shot Hollywood producer or President of the United States.
Starship Grifters main plot revolves around Rex aiding the Revolting Front. These heroic revolutionaries struggle against the oppressive Malarchian Empire. Through hook and crook, Rex ends up convincing the Malarchian regime he knows the existence of a planet (which actually doesn’t exist) and turning over the much-coveted cloaking technology (which also doesn’t exist). There hasn’t been this big of a kerfuffle over non-existent WMDs since Gulf War 2: Dubya’s Bogus Iraqi Adventure.
Along the way we meet General Issimo, the Revolting Front’s bombastic military genius. We also come across Pepper Mélange, a buxom bounty hunter on the Bad Little Kitty. (To be fair, Rex and Sasha fly around in Flagrante Delicto.) There’s a prison planet named Gulagatraz and the Revolting Front makes their home on the world of Schufnaasik Six. It’s all a bit silly. Yet it is silly in the best way. The plot (and various subplots) creak away like the best Wodehouse. Bertie Wooster and Rex Nihilo both have the same inverse ratio of confidence to intelligence. Both also swill more martinis than an entire Mad Men season.
By novel’s end, there have been numerous twists and turns. Kroese ties up everything in a nice little bow. It also left me wanting for more. Starship Grifters is the second novel of the Rex Nihilo series. It falls between Out of the Soylent Planet and Aye, Robot.
The dialogue is sharp, the action fast-paced, and almost everyone is heroically ill-equipped for the task at hand. Starship Grifters makes for fast and fun reading. Highly recommended.