Book review: Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost


Space Captain Smith is an almost successful science fantasy romp, set in a 25th-century universe where the British Empire has expanded to the stars and faces enemies both alien and human. The author has a gift for one liners and puns and, since I’m a sucker for both, as well as steam punk futurologies, it should have been a winner. Where it fails is quite interesting. Firstly, Frost proves utterly incapable of avoiding an approaching pun – something I’d normally applaud, but here there’s just too many one liners. Secondly, a lot of the jokes involve contemporary references, and even though the jokes are good, they jerk the reader right out of the world of the book. And thirdly, I don’t think Frost has thought through his future universe carefully enough. There’s no sense of space travel involving anything other than getting into a ship on one planet and then emerging on another, nor any depth to the history and cultures of the other peoples and civilisations – in contrast with Philip Reeves’s on-the-face-of-it similar triology, Larklight. Larklight also has a space-faring British Empire and excellent jokes, but the world is much more believable, the joking more disciplined, and the Victorian references deeper. In fact, if you’re looking for a purely enjoyable read involving stalwart Victorian heroes in space, try Larklight.


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