I've been reading an awful lot of chick lit lately, between our co-reviews for the last two months and my own stack of girly stuff, so I decided it was time to inject some testosterone into my book pile. What better way than to read some serious science fiction with a hero with bulging muscles, mounds of weapons at his disposal and a penchant for peaceful resolution? Okay, so I figured I better get our two male readers interested again in what's posted on this here blog and thought if I wrote "weapons" "muscles" and "science fiction" it might get their attention. They are probably thinking I should have named this blog Red Hot Estrogen.
I reviewed One Jump Ahead a while back and decided it was time to see if the sequel was out. Slanted Jack by Mark L. Van Name delivers a second dose of our hero, Jon Moore, and his very cool Predator Class Assault Vehicle, Lobo. This time, Jon finds himself face-to-face with con man, Slanted Jack, who wants his help protecting a boy who has surprising abilities. Jon would normally ignore anything to do with Jack, but the boy is from his home world, Pinkelponker. Go ahead and giggle. The planet was named by a child and everybody thinks it's ridiculous. Anyway, Pinkelponker has been inaccessible by outsiders for over a century and Jon has completely lost contact with his family there. And Jon is 130 years old, but only because his sister, Jennie, changed the composition of his body to be laced with nanomachines that regenerate him on a constant basis, making him impervious to any wounds that don't include a gunshot to the head. Did I mention this was some serious sci-fi?
So if this is such a guy book, why do I like it? Jon Moore is a fascinating character. You learn bits and pieces about him as the book goes on and I learned more about him in the sequel than I did in the first book. I like having details naturally revealed to me, not all dumped in my lap. Jon doesn't want to hurt anybody despite being able to very easily. I love his relationship with Lobo. For a machine with some emotive programming, Lobo is very wry, sarcastic and you can tell there is more to him than meets the eye. You get a small glimpse of that in this book, but you can tell that Van Name is saving up for another book. The action is intense, the emotions are very real and Van Name leaves just enough unexplained so that the endings are always a surprise.
My only complaint is that the lone female character was a bit of a caricature of a helpless female. She's irrational, upset all the time, nearly useless and a seductive temptation for Jon. He's a perfect gentleman to her and the book is definitely rated PG, both in sex and violence, but it was kind of irritating for her to be so wimpy. Then the ending happens and you understand a bit more of everybody's motivations and behaviors.
I love science fiction and this was great fun to read (despite the atrocious cover art), but definitely start with the first book. You could understand everything that's going on in Slanted Jack without having read One Jump Ahead, but if you can get more of Jon and Lobo, why not read both?