Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (242 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A space-faring ne’er-do-well with more bravado than brains, Rex Nihilo plies the known universe in a tireless quest for his own personal gain. But when he fleeces a wealthy weapons dealer in a high-stakes poker game, he ends up winning a worthless planet?and owing an outstanding debt more vast than space itself!

The only way for Rex to escape a lifetime of torture on the prison world Gulagatraz is to score a big payday by pulling off his biggest scam. But getting mixed up in the struggle between the tyrannical Malarchian Empire and the plucky rebels of the Revolting Front?and trying to double-cross them both?may be his biggest mistake. Luckily for Rex, his frustrated but faithful robot sidekick has the cyber-smarts to deal with buxom bounty hunters, pudgy princesses, overbearing overlords, and interstellar evangelists?while still keeping Rex’s martini glass filled.

Rex has a bad habit of spinning tall tales about money to be made and then stealing the money to be invested. You don’t have to be smart to figure out that is going to catch up with you. But does he listen to his sidekick Sasha? No, he doesn’t…

Mr. Kroese writes an action-packed tale of space fiction with all kinds of odd creatures and an underlying plot that doesn’t become evident until the end of the book. While I think he wrote it for adults, I think the best market for this style of book would be young adults. There are strange animals, nuclear power, space ships, insane rulers, and a dozen different interests in this story. It’s a bit silly, almost space opera, and I know they’ll have fun with Rex’s schemes.

Sasha is a robot. When Rex gets in a pickle, she helps him forget certain important past activities so he won’t be able to give them away. She can’t help; she must tell the truth. She has learned to tell the truth by not directly answering the question, but that’s almost like cheating. Can robots do that?

Rex is on the run because the repo guys are after him for debt. He stops long enough to play poker and win not only an old starship but also a planet. When he visits the planet, it’s all desert and there’s nothing of value there. But when he gets captured again, he pretends there is and tries to sell it. After about three such deals and a bounty hunter after him now, he gets stuck in the worst place of his life. Will he get out or is this it? If he’s going to get free, how’s he going to do it and who is going to pay his debt?

If those questions aren’t enough to entice you to read this book, this is also where you learn there was a much larger plan in place and that Rex isn’t as in control as he thinks he is. It makes for a good read and I think young ones will pick up on the humor and enjoy the fascinating chases. It’s not bad for an adult read either if you like sci fi!

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