• SNAP BOOK REVIEW: 'The Rookie' by Scott Sigler

    Well, here's an oddity. I was blissfully unaware of Mr Sigler's existence until an acquaintance of the SO, hearing of my twin obsessions with (American) football and sci-fi [see blog posts passim], kindly presented me with a copy of this. Mr Sigler, if the internet is anything to go by, evidently has legions of adoring fans he describes (or perhaps they describe themselves) as 'junkies'; which I mention only because it forms the basis of an otherwise incomprehensible in-joke that features in the book.

    The Rookie is published by something called Dark Overlord Media, and shows evidence of either self-publishing or a vanity press, since the text is littered with typos, occasional grammar lapses and at least one repeated sentence. So, what's it all about? Well basically, it's Any Given Sunday set in the future. And outer space. [Whoah-oh, Whoah-oh-oh-oh-oh, Spoilers follows...]

    Deep in the 27th century, a galaxy riven by perpetual inter-species wars has been unwillingly united under rule of the batlike Creterakians. Seeking to foster inter-species harmony (and sublimate potential unrest), these creatures have seized upon football as an unlikely unifying factor. Teams in the unimaginatively-named Galactic Football League are composed of genetically-enhanced humans and a selection of alien races. Our hero, Quentin Barnes, has just been drafted from an all-human backwater league to the GFL's Ionath Krakens, and has to adjust to a physically punishing (players routinely die in the GFL) and culturally overwhelming new environment.

    The Rookie is essentially two stories welded together - one is a predictable, almost cliche new-kid-versus-established-veteran football tale, taken near word-for-word from Any Given Sunday. The other is a tangled history of relationships between humans and various alien cultures against a huge interstellar backdrop - frankly, the sort of thing that hasn't been original since the days of Asimov. Sigler is a better storyteller than writer, and it's a tribute to his skill that The Rookie is a pretty compelling book, and holds your interest through its entirely predictable course to a suitably heartwarming conclusion. Be warned, though - it takes its sweet time getting anywhere: we are 85 pages in before Barnes even joins the Krakens.

    The book boasts a number of Watchmen-style extras, by far the coolest of which is a mock Krakens game programme. Rather less successful is an appendix detailing the Galaxy's numerous wars, which becomes frankly tedious despite elements of dark humour.

    If you can get past some of the blatant absurdities within it (planets appear to have but one football stadium; the GFL teams appear to have no assistant coaches; coaching in general doesn't seem to happen much), and suspend your disbelief enough to accept that alien cultures would be remotely interested in the concept of 'sport', far less in gridiron, then The Rookie is an entertaining read. Unfortunately, like the vast majority of contemporary science fiction, it's something you forget mere moments after turning the final page.

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