Willful Child

Steven Erikson
Willful Child Cover

Willful Child


These are the voyages of the Willful Child and it's arrogant captain, Hadrian Alan Sawback, who is this:

combined with a healthy dose of this:
and some of this:

In my quest to read more science fiction, I have made a point of reading scifi books by authors whose fantasy novels I have enjoyed. Steven Erikson's epic Malazan series led me to this book, which is more than just science fiction. It's his very tongue in cheek homage to Star Trek, a show he loves dearly, and an obvious cathartic break from his decades long work on Malazan. For these reasons, I can most certainly appreciate the effort, but frankly, I'm just not a fan.

Not that the book isn't well written. Lots of interesting characters and Erikson's already proven skill with words and his sharp wit. It's not easy to nail comedic timing in a non-visual medium, but Erikson manages some fantastic sight gags with just words on a page. The banter and power struggle between Sawback and Tammy, the AI that's taken over his ship, is particularly amusing.

The problem is that the jokes get old fast when it's just a variation of the same. Particularly the ones involving Sawback's lechery and misogyny (he doesn't actually hit women unless they attack first, but he does frequently undress them with his eyes and undermines them completely). I get it. This is satire and I'm fine with that. But after a while, it all gets boring because Sawback and his people really don't learn or grow or do anything. Sawback is the intrepid hero who is always right even when he's wrong, and even though the women don't indulge his antics, much of which come from inner monologues anyway, I grew tired of hearing about it.

The ridiculousness of Captain Kirk is reknown and I praise Erikson for being able to satirically critique something he loves so much, but I think he could have done so within a few less pages. When I heard about the sequel, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, I had to roll my eyes because I can't help but think that this is just going to be more of the same, and, I predict, somewhere along the way, this will happen: