Isambard Smith has been drafted for a mission - to collect a passenger, Rhianna, for one planet and take her to another. He's given a small, pretty pathetic ship, the John Pym, a pilot in Carveth, an android and former sex-bot that is on the run, and he brings along his alien friend, Suruk the Slayer, an M'Lak with an unhealthy obsession with collecting skulls.
With this mission, and representing the British Empire, he goes off with tea in his cup and not much of a clue. Picking up Rhianna he ends up running into the Ghast, who want nothing more than to destroy humanity, and John Gilead from the religiously fanatical Republic of Eden.
Can Captain Smith complete his mission, can he put the Ghast in their place for interfering in his mission, and can he have biscuits with his tea?
Space Captain Smith is Toby Frost's debut and a thoroughly enjoyable and very British space adventure, somewhat describable as a high seas British Empire novel in space. Despite how this sounds, it just works so well. The humour, which is decidedly British, is prevalent throughout and not a page goes by without a smile coming to my face in some way. It comes from not only the dialogue, which is witty and fun, but also from the scenarios that the crew are put in.
Talking about the crew (and characters in general): they are so well suited to exactly this sort of situation. Isambard Smith is completely British, right to the bone, and some of his views of the universe and other life living within is completely ridiculous - but it just works. Carveth is great to read simply because you don't know what you'll get next, but it's sure to be amusing. And Suruk, well, he steals the novel. Completely obsessed with war, killing and collecting skulls he can turn any situation in to an opportunity for battle and glory.
Here are just some reasons why I enjoyed it so much:
Suruk the Slayer on racial issues:
"Petty prejudice does not interest my people. A wise warrior once told me: 'Respect your brother M'Lak, no matter what shade of greenish-grey he may be'."
And of human racial issues:
"Many colours of skin are there, many different shades of face. But if you look within, deep inside a person, human beings are all alike. Red and squelchy."
Carveth, the former sex-bot, on how their ship was damaged and what happened:
"Well, we were cruising, hardly looking for action at all, when suddenly the Ghasts jumped us from behind, stuck a torpedo up our back end and blew our motors out. They must have seen that we were exposed at the rear because they stuck out their tube so they could come inside, but the captain ordered us to get our tools ready and beat them off if they tried to enter us by force. They all came at us at once down the passage, but what with Smith shooting off from the hip and me pumping my piece for all I was worth, we were able to give them a good seeing-to until they had to withdraw. We were knackered, though. We could hardly pull off, let alone thrust, so we saw this lake and decided to dump in the water until we were able to repair the ship and get it up again. That's pretty much the size of it."
Space Captain Smith is a great, refreshing read and is very highly recommended.