Back in January I reviewed Legionnaire, the first volume in the Galaxy’s Edge series by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole. That story was a straight up mil-sf story set in a future where the human race has spread into the galaxy and formed a “Republic” of worlds. At the point in this Universe’s history that Legionnaire takes place, the Republic is beginning to devolve into an empire, ruled over by an elite that controls the rich central systems, with an underclass occupying the rest of the galaxy and the edge of the galaxy as an outlaw haven where even the powerful Legion can do little but skirmish with the rebels and pirates that abound out there. By the end of that story it’s apparent that all the skill and valor of the remnant of faithful soldiers is being frittered away for political points by the bureaucrats that call the shots and wield the Legion as a bludgeon against the innocent inhabitants of the poorer sectors of the Republic. As I said back in January, it is an engaging military tale.
So, what have Anspach and Cole done for an encore? It appears that Legionnaire merely set the stage for the main event. This is going to be a space opera of epic proportions. And it’s easy to see what they intend to do is follow the space opera play book but dial it up to eleven. And in doing so they are following in a long tradition. Most recently, George Lucas mined that vein for all it would pay with his Star Wars franchise. His rebels revolting against a republic that has turned into an evil empire is the latest iteration of a story that goes back to the actual Roman Empire and the tales of Brutus and Spartacus and Masada.
And when I say they’ve dialed it up to eleven I’m not kidding. The text is full of little blatant references to dialog and images reflecting some scene from Star Wars or Firefly. It was kind of fun finding them. And whole characters are parodied. There is a princess with the rebels named Leenah. There is a plucky scoundrel in a freighter who rescues the princess. There is a bot that guards a young damsel in distress. The bot speaks with some combination of the diction of C3P0 and the Operative from Serenity. You can literally hear the toff British accent. And then to make sure you don’t miss any ingredients they are sometimes doubled. So, there are two scoundrels with freighters helping damsels in distress. There are two damsels in distress. There are two bounty hunters.
And there’s even a cantina. There are mob warlords with bounties on the plucky scoundrels. There is something like a dark lord whose name is Goth Sullus. So far there are no Jedi Knights but some of the characters seem to live forever so something’s going on there.
Suffice it to say that a lot of stuff is going on. And by the end of the book you can see that this is just the beginning of the story.
And now, what do I think of all this? Well, I have a theory about space opera. I believe that space opera has the potential to be very good or very bad. It entirely depends on the imaginative powers and writing skills of the author. Take an E. E. Doc Smith or an Edgar Rice Burroughs and you get the Lensman stories or Barsoom, fun and excitement. Take the likes of George Lucas and you end up with Jar Jar Binks or the latest Disney feminist trope with a light saber.
The good news is this is fun space opera. None of the damsels in distress rescue the hero. No one mentions race or gender studies terminology and the good guys aren’t ashamed of being good. I’m pretty sure the authors have included the homages to Star Wars imagery to sort of point out that the story doesn’t have to be bad just because of the space opera tropes. It just requires the story and characters to be interesting, likable and fun. And in this case they are. So if you like your space opera right up front without too much artistic restraint then I’d recommend Galactic Outlaws.