UPDATE: I just learned that Mr. Locke has passed away. Sadly, his excellent novel will have no sequel. RIP Ric Locke: You were a better writer than this world deserved.
give this work 10 stars out of 5 because the author likes what I like and hates
what I hate. Your mileage may vary: Do you love IRS agents? How about
strutting martinets? How about regulations and abusive
regulators? Do you think the Department of Agriculture should field a SWAT team?
Love these people and you'll hate Temporary Duty (TDY).
imagine 50 years in the future and that present trends continue.
Bipartisan trends of bigger, more intrusive government. (I'm not hating
on Democrats or letting any Republicans off the blame.) Bureaucracies
naturally grow unless someone demands with career-ending force, "stop."
Thus when aliens
show up to trade, there's a lot of needless trouble caused by the
gubmint. The aliens can't get the Americans to sell them groceries.
The only thing they get is the services of a detachment of F-14 Tomcats
and F-18 Hornets with their engines replaced with space-gizmos and weapons pods fitted with freakin' lasers that can pop popcorn.
these aircraft come Naval aviators to fly them. They aren't pilots, and they will
correct you if you say otherwise. Naval aviators are officers.
was never in the military, but I did have a chance to work around a lot
of military folks when I was younger. That's where I learned the concept of TDY. I got along best with the Air
Force guys. They were "civilians in uniform" after all. The Navy guys
were a bit high strung. I had a college pal who'd done four years as an
enlisted man in the Coast Guard and after graduation from college he went
back in as an officer. He described with great bemusement the
differences between the castes--particularly, at mealtimes.
you think officers walk on water, and enlisted men are pond scum that
soils their shoes, you won't like TDY. But if you like a little
blue-collar fun poked at the officers, keep reading.
Peters a second rate seaman in the US Navy. Someone has to clean up the
quarters for the officers who'll be flying the birds before they show up. He and his buddy
Todd are contracted to wield the mops and swab the decks. Peters got a
West Virginnie accent thickern mollasses in January. But he's a quick
study with the alien trade language.
When the regular Navy
arrives a quirk in his orders places him outside the normal chain of
command. This, plus the fact that the officers cannot be troubled to
learn the trade language creates opportunities and conflicts with Peters
in the middle of it.
They ship off to distant stars and adventures ensue.
you remember on Star Trek how they never had any money on the ship? Nobody had to polish the brightwork.
trade ship isn't like that.
As the voyage progresses, we meet an
interesting array of aliens in shapes familiar to readers of fairy
tales. Each of them offer valued goods and services in trade.
recurring theme in this story is that Peters has the right answers and
the aliens are listening to him while higher ranking
officers are ordering him to shut up. As a result, he alone enjoys
financial opportunities that he pursues to his advantage.
is quite civilized except for the occasional attack by space pirates.
The officers may be jerks, but they do know aerial combat. The space
battles are pleasing to read. As are the salvage operations afterward.
Our hero manages to come away with some sweet pirate booty.
This is an excellent novel about
which I can offer no higher praise. It is good, old-fashioned space
opera the way they used to write it. If you like Heinlein, here's your
huckleberry. If you like seeing young mid-shipman Hornblower repeatedly get beat up and treated
unfairly, but persevere to grow into Lord
Admiral Hornblower, read this novel.