Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (book review).

July 5, 2016 | By | Reply More

On the front cover of this book there is a picture of a huge spaceship with a glowing nebula behind it. Overlaying the rather good artwork is a large red warning triangle with the text ‘Mechanical Failure’ superimposed over it. Underneath in a smaller font is the message ‘Please restart your warship’. This sets the tone for the novel which is in part extremely funny and in others very sarcastic of military life. While it is set many hundreds of years into the future, you can be certain that a lot of the military insight comes from the authors own experiences here on planet Earth.

Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (book review).

Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja (book review).

The story begins with the hero of the book, ex-Sergeant Roger Wilson Rogers, attempting to facilitate a deal whereby the pirate group Purveyors of Vitriol sell medical supplies to the pirate group Garliali Mercenary’s. Rogers has arranged for the two groups of space-faring pirates to meet in a quiet backwater of space on the edge of Meridan territory.

Rogers, using the skills he learned during his military service, has engineered the situation to ensure he makes a lot of money in the transaction. Not only has he switched the medical supplies for bags of baking powder but he’s arranged for the funds transfer to go through his own computer system. Everything seems to be going to plan when a Meridian patrol ship turns up and everything very quickly goes pear-shape.

In the aftermath of the above events, Rogers finds himself forcibly enlisted back into the Meridian armed forces and posted back to his old haunt, the Meridian Flagship of the 331st Anti-Thelicosan Buffer Group. Unfortunately for Rogers, it’s not quite the same armed forces that he left to pursue a life as a smuggler. Things have changed and become a bit more warlike and professional. Gone are the gambling, drinking and proper home cooked food. In their place are inspections, motivational posters and standard military ration packs. It’s not an environment where Rogers can fit in or even cope with.

The rest of the book is taken up with Rogers attempts to put an end to the war-mongering which he believes is in preparation for a war that will never happen. Thelicosan and Meridian have been at peace for hundreds of years. There are enough treaties in place to make sure that the peace continues.

There are some extremely funny moments in this book. I had to put it down at several points while I tried to stop laughing. Notice I said ‘some’ as this isn’t a constant stream of highly entertaining comical moments. There is an actual plot that strings things along to a quite satisfying ending. Rogers has to use all his honed talents of lying, cheating, conflict avoidance and not forgetting work avoidance just to survive and possible come out ahead.

As I read the book I was reminded of Sergeant Bilko from that old TV programme ‘The Phil Silvers Show’. There are a lot of similarities between Bilko and Rogers which isn’t, in my opinion, a bad thing. It’s probably true that there was a Bilko type character in the Roman army, so it’s to be expected that there would be one in any future military organisation.

One of the things that impressed me about this book is that it is the author’s debut novel. While it does have a few flaws, it is very impressive as a first novel. At one point, I was almost metaphorically shouting at Sergeant Rogers as I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t realise something that was so obvious to me the reader. Rogers seems to be quite sharp and devious one moment and then rather stupid in others.

Anyway, this is a very good and enjoyable read. If you are looking for a book to take on holiday then this is the one for you. There are some excellent ideas here (a warship with a zoo deck?) to provide a fitting environment for Roger Wilson Rogers. There’s a love interest (at least Rogers hopes there is) in the shape of the monumental Marine Captain nicknamed The Viking and a friendly Droid.

I note from the inside front cover that there’s a forthcoming book, ‘Communications Failure’. This could be the start of something big for Rogers but please, please don’t say ‘Roger Rogers’ as he doesn’t like it.

Andy Whitaker

July 2016

(pub: Saga Press. 343 page paperback. Price: $14.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-4814-5926-6)

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Category: Books, MEDIA, Scifi

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About AndyWhitaker

I live in deepest darkest Essex where I enjoy photography, real ales, walking my dog, cooking and a really good book. I own an e-book reader which goes with me everywhere but still enjoy the traditional paper based varieties.

My oriental studies have earned me a black belt in Suduko and I'm considered a master in deadly Bonsai (there are very few survivors).

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