Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Murder World: Kaiju Dawn, by Jason Cordova and Eric S. Brown

Severed Press, May 2014

Jason Cordova is a nominee for the 2015 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The shady captain of a merchant starship accepts a job from a secretive government agency, retrieving the database of a spy ship that crashed on Gorgon IV, a.k.a. Murder World. It's apparently not the first time Vincente Huerta has accepted dubious jobs from dubious clients or from the military before, and he'd probably be better off financially if he didn't drink a good deal of the profits. He also has at least one ex-wife he owes a substantial amount of money to. It's his saving grace that he has Jasmine, his pilot and a thoroughly kickass woman with no apparent reason to put up with him. She could surely get a better job!

After an encounter with the ex-wife to hire mercenaries, and another stop to buy fuel from a stoner gang called the Wild Ones (no, really, their security is so good their guy on watch is smoking a reefer on duty, but it's okay because they are all badass fighters like Jasmine), the Fancy zips off to Gorgon IV.

It's not at all clear that they knew before they arrived why Gorgon IV is so dangerous it has the nickname Murder World. They seem completely surprised by the conditions there.

At no point does Huerta make an intelligent decision. If he listened to Jasmine more often, he'd make less stupid decisions. Unfortunately, Jasmine has no objection to both of them leaving the ship, leaving the mercenaries they don't know and have no reason to trust unsupervised on the ship, while they go negotiate with the Wild Ones. When Kirk took his entire command staff down to an unknown or otherwise risky world, at least he was leaving competent and loyal Starfleet officers behind on the Enterprise.

And the quality of Huerta's decision-making doesn't get better.

I wish this were being played for laughs. I don't see any evidence of that.

The characters are cardboard. The prose and the plot are clunky. I wasn't overly impressed by Cordova's other sample in the Hugo Voters packet, the short "Hill 142," as I thought its inventions were arbitrary and not supported in the story, but it's professional level work. This isn't.

Not recommended.