Book Review: Willful Child

Willful Child by Steven Erikson

These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life life-forms, to boldly blow the...

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback - a kind of James T Kirk crossed with 'American Dad' - and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through 'the infinite vastness of interstellar space'...

The bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his life-long passion for 'Star Trek' and transformed it into a smart, inventive and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-hi-tech-kit-along-the-way type over-blown adventure. The result is this smart. inventive, occasionally wildly OTT and often very funny novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

One of the biggest names in current epic fantasy is Steven Erikson. What if he would venture out of this zone and start writing Science Fiction? Well scrap the what if part because Steven Erikson just wrote one super awesome and wacky Space Opera, and its this book. Steven Erikson clearly shows that he not only knows how to write solid Epic Fantasy but also an highly inventive and witty take on Space Opera. Yes, definitely one of the best Science Fiction stories that I have read this year and so far in my reading. It's big and it's bold and you don't want to miss it. 

The story picks up at a most interesting scene, taking place well in the pas. Even when the actual story picks up it doesn;t really make that much sense but when you rflect on the whole it really helped to get a certain humurous start going for Willful Child. The story that you follow focuses on the the Captain of the ASF Willful Child Hadrian Sawback and his crew of "misfits". The story of Hadrian starts of in a similar way as that of the introduction, giving a funny introduction to his character and directly setting a very playful mood for the remainder of the story. They are just cruising along do there thing when all of a sudden the main computer of the ASF Willful Child gets taken over by a rogue AI (Artificial Intelligence), that well yes has a mind of its own and has something in store for Captain Sawback and his crew. The countdown has begun and soon the ASF Willful Child will be transported into an area where there presence will most likely set of an spark for an all out war. In between there is a going back and fort of a lot of discussion, with witty and smart dialogues. I cannot say that when they finally get transported the action takes place because all along the way there are some very nice scenes but the action does get heated up some more. In this you see a lot of spoofy elements and takes on aliens and other things that are associated with high octane space opera. All working together in great concert to create an edge of your seat, action packed laughing out loud story. 

So what you can basically make up so far is that Willful Child is far from anything that you have seen so far from Steven Erikson. It doesn't compare to the setting and style in which the Malazan Empire of the Fallen series is written. It is something completely different. Hilarious, funny and smart, oh yes and lets not forget a Space Opera. Though I am not familiar with the early Star Trek series, where this book got a lot of references from, I am however familiar with the setting of american dad and this combined with some of my experience in Science Fiction I have to say that Steven Erikson did a very nice job in breaking down and showing some of the often accompanied tropes in this genre, creating a trully over the top story that will have you smiling and laughing out loud in a manner of moments. I am still thinking about the kitten part, brilliant stuff. I think I am issuing a memo at work about this as well!

The characters in Willful Child are of a diverse cast, they include monstrous aliens, subtle aliens, humans and AI. In showing these character Steven Erikson went into an interesting direction. Since he is writing a spoof on the old themes he did stick true to several of the characteristics and personalities that you often see in Science Fiction but he picked out a few and put a lot of emphasis on them. Exagerating them to make a point. For example take the captain Hadrian Sawback, he thinks he is the man and everyone besides him is inferior now he doesn't necessarily say in in this way but his action do say that he thinks he is the best but when push comes to show he isn't all this really but his efforts are to funny to read. Added to this comes a bit that he is a "grown-up" man yeas this has to be in the "" because when sex comes into play he acts as a child, smirking and grinning and making inapportiate jokes, but jokes that are quite funny in the context of the hilarious setting of Willful Child. Next to Hardian's character you have another handful of delightfull being to read about each unique in their own way. Steven Erikson did a great job with building his characters as some will no doubt be highly annoying to you to read about and will irritate you to the fullest but in this there is also a small liking to them, or at least for me, as I was always curious to fins out just how they would react next. 

This venture of Steven Erikson into the dark reaches of was a very wild, fast and rip roaring adventure that for me succeeded in many ways. Not only does Steven Erikson show that he is a brilliant writer switching from writing Epic Fantasy to Science Fiction, also the story alone is jsut so much fun to read and this was clearly the intention that Steven Erikson had in mind, bringing down several tropes often seen in Science Fiction and creating humorous scenes around them. Captain Hadrian Sawback is really a piece of work, many will hate his arrogance but there is also much to like and I think deep down the reason why you might hate Hadrian is that he just does what he likes and we are often bound by rules and protocols. Willful Child is a superb read and excellent escape from reality. After an eventful mission, Captain Hadrian goes about his constitutive mission in space, so lets hope we will see more of his adventures in the future. Highly recommended.


  1. It was a lot of fun, wasn't it? So many clever twists and tweaks on Trek, along with some interesting commentary on sci-fi in general.

  2. Yes it sure was! Steven Erikson is a great author!


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