Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Pulp Revolutionary Sci-Fi of Jon Mollison

OK, now that I've given author Jon Mollison grief a couple of times over the cover of his novel Sudden Rescue, I probably ought to mention that it's really a pretty good book. In fact, last summer was something of a breakout season for Jon, and so far I've picked up three of his novels and thought them all great reads.

I still say he looks like Luigi.
Sudden Rescue, released just under a year ago, starts with an archetype we're all very familiar with, the independent space hauler who's not afraid to shade the finer points of smuggling law. Captain E. Z. Sudden would be right at home with the likes of Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds, dodging space pirates and overbearing AI empires until he is suddenly thrust into galactic politics with the recovery of some lost cargo containers, one of which contains a member of the local space nobility named Karenina. When it is revealed that she was on her way to a wedding that could make or break the human alliance against the aforementioned AI, she and Sudden must embark on a journey through treacherous peril and exotic, imaginative locations to stop a terrible war.

The next novel, and probably my favorite of the three, is Adventure Constant. This one uses travel to parallel dimensions rather than space, postulating a world where the physical laws of the universe encourage swashbuckling and derring-do. I suspect Jon especially enjoyed the world-building on this one, what with the Panama Canal becoming a lizardman-infested suicide run, Hawaii still an independent kingdom, and the US equivalent run by an office called the Autocrat of Liberty, the current holder of which is described as a "bombastic business tycoon who had rallied the common man to his cause and was even now attempting to roust the cancerous elitists and their foot soldiers from the country." OK, that last one probably didn't take much imagination.

As a crossover enthusiast, I also need to mention the couple of times that Jack Dashing, the hero from our world transported via crashing rocket to this new one, makes a literary reference only to discover that he's accidentally talking about real people. When this happens to the Three Musketeers it's kind of understandable, since half the characters in that work were real people anyway, but when Jack mouths off to a British spy about his 00 number, he barely manages to get the words "secret agent named James -" out before the spy is question goes from demanding where he heard that to ranting about fraudulent poster boys.

With his next release, Jon Mollison returns to the stars with the aptly named Space Princess. In this case, however, the princess is an infant, rescued by a fairly standard American Catholic family and caught up in the political intrigue and space combat that naturally follows. Jon does a neat trick here by making a setting that shares some broad similarities with that of Sudden Rescue - both are interstellar monarchies - but is quite individual at the same time. In fact it reminds me a bit of a lighter and softer Warhammer 40,000, what with all the cathedral- and chapel-shaped ships being used by the Space Catholics (the red crescent fighters and minaret-bedecked capital ships of the Holy Terra-threatening enemy weren't terribly subtle, either). But the best part is the way in which the ordinary family rises to their very un-ordinary circumstances.

In a way, (and given a flexible definition of "ordinary") that's something that all three of these works have in common. In addition, of course, to being fun, adventure-filled works that rest on sound Christian principles without being preachy. The heroes are all heroic, in every sense of the world, and their sense of optimism makes a fine alternative to the too often nihilistic spirit present in many SF works today.

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