Interstellar Gunrunner (Interstellar Gunrunner #1) by James Wolanyk Book Review

Write on: Tue, 25 Oct 2022 by  in Charles' New Reviews Read 218


INTERSTELLAR GUNRUNNER by James Wolanyk is something that has been recommended on my feed for some time. Indeed, for years, right under THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY it was always being told to me that it was something I might like. The problem was there was always something else in the queue and it wasn't like I didn't have a bunch of other space opera books to read ahead of it. Still, I remembered the title and when I saw the book trilogy was on sale for 99c, I decided to jump at it and picked up a copy. Here's my review of the first book, Interstellar Gunrunner, that is the first book of...the Interstellar Gunrunner trilogy. Which is how all trilogies should be titled.

The premise is Bodhi Drezek is one of the worst people in the galaxy. An arms trafficker who gleefully sells to both sides of a war within minutes of one another, manufacturing munitions that very often exist to counteract the ones he just sold, he has made a very lucrative profit from his last deal. The theocratic totalitarian Halcius Hegemony is having no end of trouble wiping out an insurgency (in part because of Bodhi's weapons) and that sustained conflict is what keeps him in business.

Unfortunately, Bodhi is bad with money. Incredibly, obnoxiously, incredulously bad with money. He makes something like 20,000,000 credits from his last deal and proceeds to blow it all on a suite to gather all of his creditors so he can ask for more money for another scheme. As you can gather, it turns out his creditors would rather be paid instead and Bodhi is stunned because the idea of this never occurs to him. He is so incredibly confidant of his ability to charm people into purchases, he has absolutely no fallback position when they aren't. Yes, Bodhi is used to dealing with morons and the fact that there are other people who aren't by his standards is something he's bad at anticipating.

What follows is a delightful story akin to the Han Solo novels or similar crime fiction IN SPACE. Bodhi must perform a task to cover all of his debts to a particularly nasty loan shark named Nerikad. Nerikad is basically a collection of sentient algae that wants him to steal something from a tropical planet full of sentient bunnies (all of them ripped like Arnie). Opposing or supporting him will be the Hegemony and the insurgency that they're fighting there.

The biggest appeal of this book is how utterly contemptible Bodhi is. Seriously, for 90% of the book, Bodhi is reprehensible in a way that would do Edmund Blackadder proud. No secret heart of gold here, he regularly throws his business partners, crew, and innocent bystanders under the bus for the slightest gain. It's a nice contrast to stories where the protagonist is just misunderstood or has a tragfic backstory to justify everything he does.

Indeed, the only flaw with the book and its zany con games and betrayals is the fact that the remaining 10% does have Bodhi acting like he's suddenly developed a conscience. I didn't buy it and was genuinely enjoying the protagonist being such an utter scumbag throughout. A guy who thinks he's far more morally ambiguous and charming than he is. Sadly, they felt the need to give him someone redeeming qualities and I am taking off a half-point from my score for the book otherwise.

It's a well-designed world with lots of interesting tidbits. My favorite element has to be the fact that faster-than-light travel doesn't exist so you have to make contact with cosmic entities who will take you across the galaxy in exchange for human sacrifices, art, or prayers. Just the random insertion of cosmic horror monetized by people like Bodhi. I admit I've never seen Cthulhu used as a taxi before. There's also some other fun bits like Bodhi kidnapping a child prodigy by pretending to be a school representative, his horrible attempts at conning people who see right through him, and the fact he unwittingly may have ended reality once (long story). Highly recommended.

Available here

C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.