Just Desserts, by Simon Haynes

Clunk jogged down the Volante’s cargo ramp, his mind in turmoil. Had he really threatened to walk out on Mr Spacejock? He went cold at the thought. What other human would give him a home, would rely on his advice and help daily? All right, so Mr Spacejock didn’t so much rely on advice as completely ignore it…Regardless, Clunk needed a roof over his head and a socket to charge by, and the Volante was all he had.

Hal Spacejock and his (t)rusty sidekick robot, Clunk, have arrived on planet Cathua to collect a load of cargo. It’s not a high-profit job, but when they’re offered an outrageous sum to add one sealed crate to their load, the sums look better. The trouble is, they can’t leave until the ship’s new equipment is fixed. Whilst they are busy getting sidetracked in their efforts to get the right parts, their ship is stolen by an amnesic secret-agent robot and two mercenaries. Hal and Clunk’s only chance of getting their ship back is a hot pursuit in a rusting hulk. Their chances of surviving long enough to recover the Volante are slim.

Just Desserts is the third title in the Hal Spacejock series. The silliness of the first two titles continues, with plenty of clichés, one liners from a zany cast of characters, and more twists and turns than a packet of Twisties. Author Simon Haynes has found a formula that works, yet manages to make each new instalment sufficiently different to avoid it becoming predictable.

Roll on instalment four.

Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts, by Simon Haynes
FACP, 2007

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

Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes

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.

Funny stuff.

Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2005