My Blurb: Growing up aboard a smuggler’s ship is exciting, but not Mal Reynolds or Han Solo exciting. So Michael Fletcher thought he was on course for a low-key kind of excitement in his life, working for his father aboard the Sophie’s Grace. But when his father dies unexpectedly, all his protections are stripped away and Michael is flung into a world of smugglers, cheats and family secrets. As Michael races to uncover the truth about who his father really was, his search drags him into the converging worlds of desperadoes, big business, and Navy Intelligence, all of whom seem anxious to get their hands on Michael himself.
My Review: At its core, this is the story of one young man coming to terms with the sudden arrival of adulthood, and having to learn to stand on his own, despite the plans that everyone else seems to be making for his life. Ships is a well constructed tale set in a well-conceived universe, told simply, and with sensitivity for the protagonist and his situation. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So what’s next? With Michael’s origin story out of the way, the stage is now masterfully set for an ongoing series of adventures, as Michael gains greater agency and (hopefully) assembles a team around himself that will permit him to become a true badass in the tradition of other bigger than life action heros like Reynolds, Solo, King Arthur, Captain Kirk, and Buffy Summers. That’s what I sense here, coming to me through my magic crystal, and if that’s what Thompson has in mind, I will be here for the long haul.
If there are weaknesses to be found, they are minor. Ships is every bit as good as anything I’ve seen coming out of the major SF houses, and none of my following quibbles should be taken as problems. I include them merely in the hopes that Thompson will see them and that they might influence his upcoming stories so that I will like them even more. (I’m selfish that way. :-)
1) I like my science fiction best when it offers some clever extrapolations of technology or cultural developments, but nothing in Ships of My Fathers struck me as new. While this future universe seems well thought out, it also seems familiar. I’d like to have seen a bit more novelty.
2) Another thing I like in a science fiction story is that it take advantage of its science fiction setting, but Ships could easily be transformed into a Victorian high-seas yarn with just a few global search and replaces, so this is more piratical space opera than science fiction. I hope subsequent instalments will make better use of the setting.
3) Science fiction usually offers fairly flat characters, and so I can’t fault Thompson for staying the course on this, but I was a bit disappointed not to find more sizzle and variety in the secondary characters.
4) While the writing is excellent, it never goes beyond simple expedience. My favorite authors have an ear for language and a knack for witty banter, clever turns of phrase, etc. I didn’t see much of that here, and I thought there were a few scenes where a bit of that could have made them fabulous.
All things considered, not much to complain about, really. So if you’re looking for a great yarn, and maybe hoping to get in on the ground floor of a truly worthwhile series, check out Ships of My Fathers. You won’t be sorry.