Book Review: The Spherical Trust by Mjke Wood

Image result for the spherical trust by Mjke Wood
The Sphere of Influence, Book III. The Spherical Trust

Genre: Sci-fi
Pub Date: 2018
Publisher: Copperbird Press
Length: 421
pages
Kindle Edition:
£2.99

Synopsis

Bob Slicker is back, with stature. But being King of the Sphere of Influence isn’t everything he imagined. He’s convinced someone’s out to get him.
Elton D Philpotts has never been away, and he also has new-found status. But being a Finance Director isn’t everything he imagined. Is someone out to get Elton, too?
Only one man has an ego big enough to carry two such massive grudges, but Martin Levison is gone, lost in deep space with no route home. So who else wants Philpotts and Slicker dead?
The threat is bigger than one man. This time there’s more to save than a lost planet or a ragtag band of mercenaries. This time the future of the whole Sphere of Influence is in play.

The final chapter in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, feels like it’s been a long time coming; but worth the wait!

In Deep Space Accountant, the hero came in the unlikely form of Elton D Philpotts; the titular accountant, who has little confidence and an obsession with numbers bordering on OCD.

With The Lollipop of Influence, the previously odious, and sweaty, Bob Slicker had to team up with navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, to escape the planet they had been abandoned on.

The Spherical Trust brings the whole cast together – including the re-emergence of arch enemy, Martin Levison. We get to meet Elton’s parents; albeit briefly in his father’s case, but Polina Philpotts is a woman to be reckoned with, I really liked her. She is one of those practical, common-sense women who knows politics, isn’t intimidated by it and will chain herself to a rock to save a beauty spot – we could do with more like her in the real world. (And this is where the title comes from – think National Trust!)

This third book ties together the previous two in directions I had not imagined would be the case. It has nearly all of the characters racing across known and unknown space; bouncing from planet to planet in the Sphere of Influence, in a dizzying race that accelerates not in a machine-gun blazing, cinematic, all-American heroic manner, but in that bumbling British style that has many comic moments.

There’s a lot about how we, as a species, take our environment for granted; without being preachy – if there’s one thing Mjke Wood does not do, it’s preach. Like when Elton discovers where all the waste goes:

Elton pondered on it. He looked at the size of the pipe, vibrating with the onrushing surge of excrement. He thought of the volumes he’d seen gushing in from all corners. He thought about the time frame, one hundred and sixty years. Out there, somewhere in space, was a place where you would not want to crack open your spacesuit helmet for a nanosecond, because there was one mighty bad smell.

I could not see how Wood was going to tie everything together; especially when he incorporated the Teddy’s – child-minding teddy bears, introduced killer bees and a whole section of a planet devoted to Norwegians who loved to sing at all hours of the day. I could not envision how certain events could be addressed in a single book; such as how to save a planet, how the bad guy gets his comeuppance (if he does), and what do all those numbers mean?!

But he does it. And he does it well.

There is a quintessential Britishness to Wood’s writing, like Tom Holt, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, Wood has lovingly crafted characters who are appealing; for the most part, silly; a lot of the time, and prone to making mistakes like the rest of us. We follow the multiple viewpoints through interstellar blunderings, cringing board meetings, ripped pants, assassination attempts, and waste management. Wood has a, seemingly, effortless style that can be deceptive, his work is very easy to read, but it is not light on the science in science-fiction. He does not shy away from dealing with scientific terms, there’s mathematical problems he has evidently had to solve, such as the time differentiation between planetary travel and enough technicalities to keep readers of hard sci-fi happy.

If there was a criticism I would make, it would be that I think it could have been longer. There was a lot of information to compact into a novel this size – though I can understand the author wanting to keep all books in a trilogy of similar length. I would, for instance, have liked more about Russ Kurosov the muscle-bound Commando who had a special ‘Jim’. A the end of the trilogy, a note from the author reads, I have ideas for stand-alone novels set in the Sphere, with new characters, new problems and new insanity. I can only hope that Kurosov is one of those selected for further investigation!

Oh, a little addendum – there’s an Easter Egg throughout the story. I had one of those hang on a minute moments. Copperbird, the huge corporation that runs all sorts from prisons to heated boots, is the imprint the books are published under!

I’m giving The Spherical Trust

4 Stars

Book Review – The Lollipop of Influence by Mjke Wood

The Lollipop of Influence 

Following ‘Deep Space Accountant’, this is  the second book in the Sphere of Influence series.


Bob Slicker and his navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, are blamed for the open-ended jump that dropped their battle fleet into deepest, uncharted space. 

They attempt to make amends and are pushed together into an unlikely alliance.
Can they find a way home to the Sphere of Influence? Nobody ever managed it before, so they couldn’t make things worse.

Or could they?

From villain to hero, the adventure continues.

http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Back in October 2016, I did a review of Deep Space Accountant, Mjke Woods first in the trilogy – The Sphere of Influence.

blogmike

I had been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, and Mjke Wood does not disappoint. Following on from Deep Space Accountant – we have left Elton Philpotts behind – literally – and travel with the erstwhile slimy accountant, Bob Slicker into deep space. When I realised that the story had moved on from Elton, I was momentarily piqued, I liked Elton Philpotts, I had become irrationally attached to him – even though he is an accountant. However, Wood has managed to transfer my loyalties as smoothly as an Eddie Stobart entering a SLOG; smoother.

solar_system_lollipops_1024x1024

And so to Bob Slicker; Bob is a spineless, sweaty appendage to the hideously megalomaniac Martin Levison, can he REALLY be our new hero?
Can Bob find home? Can Bob find a girl? Can Bob find a spine?! Whilst Bob is spineless, Martin Levison is heartless. Bob wants Eccles cake. Martin wants Cognac. Bob wants to go home. Martin wants the world!

Along for the ride with Bob Slicker, is Florence McConnachie, second navigation officer. Florence is quick-witted, independent, dexterous, and no navigator. Like Bob, she has a boss who ensures that the blame is passed onto and firmly held by their subordinates, unlike Bob, she is about to get married. She dislikes Bob Slicker due to his association with Levison, and refers to him as ‘The Slicker’; he is a sweat machine of great magnitude. And alas for Florence, she is going to have to work with the man.

outer-space-lollipops-1
Some of the characters are beautifully awful; Lieutenant Commander Kurasov is an excellent portrayal of an American style military officer; but with a private life back home that is worthy of its own story! Meera, the navigation officer, is a preening, self-promoting egotist who will undoubtedly get what she wants. And although these are characterisations that we recognise, Wood somehow manages to NOT make them feel clichéd.

A couple of characters are who you would want on your side in an emergency; Winker Watson especially fits the bill (I am presuming the name was taken from the schoolboy who played pranks on his teachers and classmates in the popular British comic, Dandy). Watson is a bow-tie wearing, coffee-making, cake-eating Payroll officer, who enjoys tinkering with spacecraft in his spare time. I suspect that Wood is quite attached to this Watson chap, as he is more fully depicted than any other secondary character.

10_piece_planet_taobao_nw_HEATHER_KELLY_grande
Although the story takes part in the vastness of space; where many American movies have been set, and some American language features are use, this is a quintessentially British story; the tone of writing contains no ice or vinegar like so many American novels do, by this I mean sarcasm or nasty wit (not that I don’t like a bit of sarcasm and bite), the reactions to emergencies,  behaviours, idiosyncrasies and flaws strike as ‘terribly English’, small things matter; as Bob discovers when the kestrels power system is drained!!! (Beer anyone?!) – I love that.

There is even a YouTube trailer  –

I haven’t seen one of these for a book before – or maybe I just lead a sheltered life – If you get British humour, you understand that the YouTube trailer has it’s lollipop licking tongue firmly in its cheek; all those big movie trailers, influenced by American film industry, that we have become used to are pastiched here in a short space of time – the dramatic music, the panoramic views of space, and the bold text.

lollipops
Do read Deep Space Accountant first, it gives background to Slicker and Levison – which gives the ‘Lollipop’ story it’s tension.
And what is a lollipop of influence anyway? I hear you ask – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!

The Lollipop of Influence has

Spaceships! Alien Planets! Bad Guys! Good Guys! Cake!