BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Navy outlaw Wilson Cole turns his attention toward reforming the Republic government.
PROS: Cole’s previous moral ambiguity is finally addressed; thoroughly engaging from start to finish; a quick read thanks to Resnick’s smooth prose.
CONS: Cole is unbelievably lucky against impossible odds.
BOTTOM LINE: A well-executed conclusion to a consistently entertaining series.
Over the course of Mike Resnick’s Starship series (see a review of the previous 4 books), we have seen the protagonist Wilson Cole play the role of Mutineer, Pirate, Mercenary, and Rebel. With the final book, Starship: Flagship, Cole finally turns his attention to the Republic Navy that has, over the course of the books, demonstrated itself to be the true villain.
Cole is fighting impossible odds, of course. With an initial armada of some 800 ships under his command, Cole hopes to infiltrate the planetary seat of government. The catch is that it’s protected by the thousands of Republic ships that are not currently engaging the alien Teroni Federation. Cole’s not looking to destroy the government (which would mean chaos) but he does want to reform the Republic.
It a huge task for someone who starts the novel as the most wanted human in the universe. And for someone who seems to be put in so many impossible situations against overwhelming odds, Cole is unbelievably lucky. Except for one setback early in the novel, he wins every confrontation. But despite the unlikelihood of the outcome, there is much fun in seeing how Cole solves each problem, usually with sound reasoning and decisiveness, the way a leader should do it.
In the previous books, it was noted that Cole’s actions were morally questionable. Resnick thankfully addresses that issue more openly in Starship: Flagship, particularly regarding a situation that involves the fair treatment of prisoners. It’s clear that torture goes against Cole’s morals, but he is following the ethical constraints of a desperate situation. He has to make a tough choice and it’s grounded in logical, if unpleasant, reasoning. (The author also provides an Appendix in which he talks about ethics of the situation more directly.)
It was good to see these characters again. Resnick’s easily-digestible narrative and economy of prose helps the story move along quickly. It never slows down and is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. Like before, the book’s military aspect focuses on the strategic part of warfare and running a starship. While there are some battles, they are resolved relatively quickly and more time is spent having Cole describe what needs to be done and why it needs to be done that way. I’d be hard-pressed to call this action-packed, but lots of stuff does happen and the story quickly hops from one conflict to the next.
The story is not so overly complex that newcomers can’t pick up what’s going on, but to start here would mean missing Cole’s larger journey which is just as fun. Starship: Flagship is a well-executed conclusion to a consistently entertaining series.
[Note: One of the many appendices in this book includes the lyrics to John Anealio’s song “The Ballad of Wilson Cole“, which traces Cole’s journey through the course of the series and summarizes it quite nicely.]