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The Sheriff of Yrnameer: A Novel by Michael Rubens
Review by Ernest Lilley
Pantheon Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0307378470
Date: 04 August 2009 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Related Review: Angry Young Spaeman by Jim Monroe / Show Official Info /

Science Fiction often fails to take humor seriously, though the occasional quirky book sneaks through its force field of indignation. One worth taking a look at that made it under my deep space radar was The Sheriff of Yrnameer, and that's pronounced "your-name-here" in case you're a little slow, like me.

Cole is your basic Han Solo type, but without the luck, skill, or great looks. He does rate 7.6 on the handsome scale, though not quite the 8 the hacker he hired made it, so it's not like he's the scruffiest adventurer out there, but he's not Teg...that guy's a solid 9 and the bane of Cole's existence. No, scratch that. The bane of Cole's existence is Kenneth, an octopodal alien who's going to deposit his eggs in Cole's eye socket if he doesn't pay his debt. Fortunately, Cole's got a plan. Unfortunately, Cole's plans often involve jumping out of the solar frying pan and into the fire of uncontrolled re-entry. Fortunately, he's got friends. Well, actually, considering his friends, maybe that's not so fortunate either.

The story opens with Cole dangling upside down from a tentacle being shaken down for the few coins he's managed to collect his friend -- well, friend is too strong a word -- Bacchi, out of his pockets. Since it's nowhere near what Cole owes, it's back to an ongoing threat, that the octopodesque alien, Kenneth, will inject his egg/brood into Cole's eye-socket, which isn't just gross, it's fatal. Unless Cole can talk him into giving him one more chance to come up with the creds. And of course, he won't run.

So, after a few more minor misadventures, Cole finds himself stealing the space yacht of Teg, the most glamorous galactic rouge known to advertising or popular media, along with Nora, the hard woman, Philip, the soft man, Bacchi, sort of a lizard version of Cole who thought he was stowing away on Teg's ship...and a hold full of freeze dried orphans. Let's just hope nobody turns on the sprinklers.

Cole finds himself accepting the job that Teg had signed on for, namely delivering the orphans to the mysterious planet of Yrnameer, the last of the corporately un-sponsored named planets, and a fabulous place of peace, harmony, and really nice people, with the exception of the band of really bad men who are about to swoop down on the settlers ala Blazing Saddles. Guess who gets elected to stop them.

But that comes after meeting up with a barely sentient robot (he likes people, which generally rules out sentience) on a space station full of crazed cannibal corporate types and other misadventures. Speaking of Miss Adventure, Nora, the hard woman is quite the babe, just the sort of gal that Cole could go for if not that 1) They never go for him, and always find ways to make rejection painful. Often involving aliens, physical pain, and public humiliation and 2) Deep in his heart he's still pining for Mary Ann, the sweet girl who looked up at the stars with him long ago and told him that she had faith in him.

Considering Cole's life of crime, failed service in the Space Marines, and general inability to pick the right side of anything, it's not really surprising that nobody has repeated that faith. Except that now Nora, a town full of good people, and a bunch of reconstituted orphans need him to step up and face down the baddest bad guy in known space. And Cole should know, cause it's not like they never pulled a job together.

Maybe running isn't such a bad strategy?

The author tweaks SF tropes to make an delightful romp through a galaxy that isn't as far away as you might like it to be in this Space Merchants meets Hitchhiker's Guide to the Star Wars galaxy mashup. The interesting thing is that it's pretty good SF, and its super-science isn't any more absurd than anyone elses, while its take on society is closer to the truth than most will care to admit. Recommended for space opera fans (e.e. Iain Banks fans, including me) who are taking things too seriously, and pretty much everyone else.

Also, if you liked Angry Young Spaceman by Jim Monroe, you'll like this. Or the other way around.

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