Book Review: “Starship Hunters” by Michael Burns

This book would make a great movie! It would be like Jurassic Park meets Aliens, with a bit of Predator thrown in. Instead of making endless sequels and prequels and reboots, the movie people ought to try adapting a lesser-known story like this one.

“Okay, Berthold; slow down,” you say. “What’s this book even about?”

Well, it’s set in the 23rd century, and tells the story of Nick Dekker, owner of the reigning champion women’s soccer team, the Los Angeles Hawks. Dekker sees an ad for an interplanetary safari, and decides it would be an excellent off-season activity for his team. Although Britt Jewel, the team’s coach and also Dekker’s girlfriend, is not excited about big-game hunting, he convinces her to go, and the rest of the team soon signs up as well.

Things start off well. The Regulus, the spaceship which transports them across the galaxy, is full of top-tier amenities, including a gym where Dekker spends most of his time fulfilling a promise to Jewel that he’ll get back in shape. It’s almost like a luxury cruise.

Except, not quite. Dekker is troubled early on by the presence of military personnel, most notably Capt. Luke Webb, a veteran of the Deep Space Infantry, who commands a unit of extremely lethal experimental combat robots. Dekker, a former space marine himself, begins to suspect this is something more than just a vacation.

His suspicions prove justified. Not long after landing on the first planet, they encounter a hostile species of intelligent aliens, soon dubbed the “Gorgon.” In response to the threat, Capt. Webb conscripts all the Hawks players into military service under his command.

What follows is textbook military sci-fi: plasma rifles, high-tech combat suits and the aforementioned combat robots get thrown into action against an alien army.  Of course, I loved it.

Moreover, though they’re both fighting the aliens, there’s some real tension between Dekker and Webb. Dekker distrusts the dictatorial officer’s motives, given his repeated withholding of important military intelligence from the rest of the group, while at the same time treating them as his own fighting force.

I do have some criticisms of the book. First, there’s a little too much exposition at the front. Now, I don’t mind a book that slowly builds up a world, and I hate the modern trend of having to start every story off with a bang. So, I don’t mind this too much, but some readers might find it slow going.

Second, I have a few problems with how the dialogue is written. It feels very stilted at times, like a bit too much explanatory matter for the reader has been included. Also, Dekker has this habit of telling everyone to call him by his first name, to the point that with every person he talks to, he seems to have a conversation like this:

“Hi, I’m Nick Dekker.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dekker.”

“Please, call me Nick.”

“Okay, Nick.”

This got a bit repetitive after a while.

But, I enjoyed the story so much that I could readily overlook these issues. Like I said, I can easily imagine this being a movie, and it would be a really good movie. The problems with exposition would disappear, as that sort of material can be conveyed much faster with film. And, this book is the first entry in a series, so the movie folks can rest assured they have plenty of sequel material lined up already.

If you enjoy military sci-fi adventures, give this one a try.

5 Comments

    1. Indeed; I think the movie industry always likes to know they can make it a series. (Sometimes they’ll do it even when the source is only one book, e.g. “The Hobbit.”)

  1. Mmm….I think I’ll give this one a miss. I’ve started to enjoy military scifi, but only when it’s ‘hard’ scifi. This sounds too much like the kind of story that made me steer clear of military scifi in the past. 🙁

    1. It was “harder” than I expected from the cover, but yeah, I’d agree it’s still more like a comic book than a hyperrealistic story. 🙂

      1. lol – it was the lasguns and road tripping across the galaxy that made my hackles rise…but the cover didn’t help. 😀

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