Hal Spacejock Second Course, by Simon Haynes

The interstellar freighter Volante powered through space, her streamlined flanks speckled with points of light from distant stars. In the flight deck, Hal Spacejock was studying the main viewscreen from his customary stance in the pilot’s chair – hand clasped behind his head, boots up on the flight console and a cup of coffee at his side.

We first met Hal Spacejock in the book of the same name, as he travelled through space in a rusty ship trying to avoid debt collectors, and getting into scrape after scrape. Now he’s back in a second instalment of his adventures – still just as gung-ho and gullible, but now with a new ship and a new set of challenges.

In Hal Spacejock: Second Course, Hal is offered a job delivering some bank documents – but when he accepts it he makes himself an enemy. Rex Curtis owns a huge freight line and he’s not happy that Hal has undercut him. He will stop at nothing to destroy Hal and regain the contract – he even wants Hal’s ship!

Hal and his sidekick, aging robot Clunk, must overcome a mischievous orange ape, a mysterious female passenger with links to Curtis, accidental teleportation to another galaxy and grumpy customs officers who want to borrow Clunk for a museum display.

Often sequels to successful first books can be downright disappointing or repetitive, but this sequel is better than the first, with more development of Hal and Clunk as characters and an interesting cast of supporting characters, as well as a plot with twists and turns, and plenty of humour. Bobby the Briefcase, a talking computer invented by a loony inventor, offers the reader a sardonic take on modern ‘helpful’ software, with his regular ‘it looks like you are trying to…’ and ‘would you like to…’.

Readers will be glad to know there is a third book in the series, as there is still so much of the universe for Spacejock to bumble his way through.

Hal Spacejock: Second Course, by Simon Haynes
FACP, 2006