The groundcar tore across the field at full speed, leaving whirling eddies of pollen in its wake. The sun’s last rays threw the car’s shadow across the field, pointing directly at the billowing clouds of white smoke that enveloped the Black Gull.
Hal was hunched over the controls, eyes narrowed against the tearing wind. The car’s screaming engine hammered his ears and the wind howled through the open vehicle, threatening to tear him from his seat. Still Hal pushed harder on the stick, until the warm metal felt like it was bending in his grip.
Hal Spacejock is in quite a bit of trouble. He is the owner of an ageing spaceship which has seen much, much better days, he owes money all around the galaxy and the debt collectors are at his door. When he is offered a job shifting a load of robot parts, he knows it sounds dodgy, but he can’t afford to turn down the work.
Soon, Hal and his new shipmate, an aging robot called Clunk, are dodging a vast range of enemies – from the debt collector and his evil sidekick, to armed forces on manoeuvre, to a rival robot manufacturer who wants to steal his cargo. All are better equipped and smarter than Hal and Clunk, but through a mix of cunning, teamwork and plain good luck, they usually manage to stay one step ahead. But will it be enough to get the load delivered and Hal’s debts paid off?
Hal Spacejock is a funny science fiction parody. The image of a bumbling pilot with a robot sidekick is not new. Neither is that of the pilot playing chess and verbally jousting with his onboard computer, or the backdrop of an ageing spaceship with mounting bills. But that’s the point here – author Simon Haynes uses the familiar with comic effect and then makes the story his own. There is plenty of action, twists and turns aplenty and loads of laughs. Fans of the genre will find plenty to like here.
Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2005