Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book Review - The Outpost by Mike Resnick

The Outpost
Mike Resnick
Tor Books
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0312875770
384 pages

Out along the edge of the galaxy is a quiet place known simply as “The Outpost.” It is a “Callahan”-type tavern (see the works of Spider Robinson) where heroes come to meet, share adventures, unwind, gamble, drink, perform various acts of sex, and tell tall tales after a long day of heroics. With names like Tomahawk, Catastrophe Baker, Hurricane Smith, and Three-Gun Max the characters are larger than life and live up to their names. There are so many characters and stories, in fact, that it becomes a bit blurred later on as to who did what when and to whom. Surprisingly, the large cast and multitude of stories really don’t matter as much as the fleshing out of the general dynamics of the group as a whole and their accomplishments.

What the frequenters of The Outpost don’t know is that the Commonwealth will soon be attacked by a marauding horde of cut-throat aliens.

The book is broken down into three sections of multiple vignettes (not quite short stories, but not exactly flash fiction either – so vignettes). Part One establishes many of the various characters who tell their stories in a series of tall tales. Part Two focuses on the war with the aliens and the individual battles fought by our heroes. Resnick shifts perspectives from the planets in the system to the tribulations of the various characters against the alien invaders. Part Three brings many of the characters back together at The Outpost after the war is over to tell and re-tell their own tall-tale adventures.

In addition, using literary license, Resnick inserts himself into the story in the guise of Willie the Bard, an unscrupulous Shakespeare-esque character who vows to skew the stories so that they tell a “more interesting” history thereby literally writing history rather than simply recording it.

Readers familiar with Resnick’s novels will get exactly what they expect: a well written and interesting story filled with memorable characters. New readers will be introduced to Resnick's universe through what amounts to a series of vignettes which, while not intertwined, complement each other and build on the same ideas about man’s place in the cosmos and purpose for living which according to Resnick is sex, gambling, fighting, and sex, not necessarily in that order.

The Outpost may be Resnick’s most assessable work for the newcomer. So, if you’ve never read any of his work this is a good place to start.

4 ½ out of 5 stars