#RRSciFiMonth: Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Sci-Fi NovemberSci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Oh The Books and Rinn Reads this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.

Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson

Genre: Science Fiction, Humor

Series: Stand Alone/Book 1

Publisher: Tor (November 4, 2014)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have my husband to thank for my love of Star Trek. I wasn’t a fan before we met, but back when we first started dating he sat us down in front of the TV with a bunch of Star Trek shows and movies and sought to make a new convert out of me. And of course, he insisted we just had to start with the 1960s Original Series.

Yes, when you watch TOS now it does seem cheesy, with the special effects and props looking stunningly fake, aliens that look almost undistinguishable from humans, newly discovered planets with landscapes that look suspiciously like Northern California, and William Shatner’s Captain Kirk coming across as a bit of a lech given his inclination to jump into bed with any beautiful female no matter her shape, size, or species. But all that was part of the show’s charm, and it’s the reason why a lot of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes are from that series. And no surprise, it’s also what makes Willful Child such an uproarious work of genius.

Steven Erikson essentially takes the tropes and campiness we know and love from TOS (and some from a couple other Star Trek series besides. The part with the Bor–I mean, Plog Collective had me in stitches), transforming and packing it all into this clever and downright hilarious novel which is one of the best spoofs I’ve ever read. These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations and wreak havoc upon them all. Led by the fearless but not terribly bright Captain Hadrian Sawback, who has an insatiable appetite for sex and a scary tendency to ignore all Affiliation regulations, the crew of the Willful Child traverses the galaxy and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans in this non-stop rollicking space adventure.

This is definitely new territory for me when it comes to Erikson. Prior to this book, I’ve only read his first Malazan Book of the Fallen novel, and so seeing him do over-the-top humor and sci-fi was a bit of a double treat. Obviously, Willful Child is a very different kind of book, being a parody of sorts. With the nature of comedy being so subjective, it probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The book is pulpish in the best way, featuring exaggerated larger-than-life characters, exotic places, bizarre aliens and outlandish villains. Still, there is no doubt Erikson is a passionate fan of Star Trek. Behind his merciless lampooning of the genre, I also see a loving homage. Readers will find this book highly amusing and Trekkers especially will recognize the references and source for a lot of the jokes, resulting in lots of laughs.

Sweepy spoke up, “Captain. I recommend we displace a squad down here and send them through. That way, should they all die, well, we only lost a few faceless nobodies. Excepting the chief engineer, sir.”

“Hardly seems challenging,” said Hadrian, rubbing at his manly jaw. “I was thinking of going through first, actually.” ~pg. 158

As with most works of satire, I was actually quite curious as to how Erikson would handle the storytelling. Turns out, the pace is snappy, heavy on the dialogue, and each story arc immediately segues into the next, emulating the episodic format of a television serial (in a couple instances, characters even break the fourth wall by referring to the situation as an “episode”). Fast-paced and filled to the brim with witty japes poking fun at Star Trek tropes and sci-fi themes, I really couldn’t have asked for more.

Needless to say, books like these are difficult to review and likely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, often because of how over the top they are. And yet they are fully intended to be this way, and as long as you know what you’re in for and recognize Willful Child as the entertaining parody it is, I think you’ll find it to be very enjoyable. For me, it was a nice change of pace, something I could sit back and read with abandon and simply indulge myself in its silliness. As every avid reader probably knows, every once in a while you just need a FUN! book like this in your life!

4 stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor Books!

28 Comments on “#RRSciFiMonth: Willful Child by Steven Erikson”

  1. This does look fun! I never managed to watch TOS although I consider myself a Trekkie otherwise, happy to read something poking lovable fun at it though 🙂


    • To be honest, I couldn’t get into this Malazan books. Read the first one, put the second one on my to read list, still haven’t gotten to it after all these years.


  2. This is the first I’ve heard of this book, and it sounds like so much fun! I’m more of a ST:tNG fan, but I could see myself really enjoying this.


  3. Oooh Sci-Fi humor. A spoof of Star Trek sounds awesome! I never got into the original series, but I liked Voyager and The Next Generation. I totally agree sometimes it’s great to just read something fun!


  4. This sounds like the perfect book to take your mind away from everyday annoyances, or as an intermission between “heavier” books, and I love the idea of a parody of iconic TV like the original Trek series. Especially when it pokes fun at tropes like the captain-who-always-gets-the-girl…

    The little snippet you quoted convinced me to look for this book right away 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!


    • I noticed the difference as well! I could have sworn the cover had a dude on it, maybe they changed it because it was a bit much (Star Trek-wise).


  5. When everyone argues over Kirk v Picard I have to laugh because I know for a fact that Sisko is the only one that matters.

    Not sure how I would take it, DS9 is the only trek I enjoyed and it was very much NOT trek.


    • Yeah DS9 is perhaps the series that I’m least familiar with, and you’re right, it very much did not feel like what most would think of Trek.

      Never mind Kirk or Picard, I’m still Team Janeway though.


  6. Dark secret time: instead of watching Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch taped (TAPED!) recordings of TOS with my dad. He’d make pancakes and I’d walk around doing robot arms pretending to be like the Borg – I mean Plog Collective. 😉 Good times. This sounds like quite a departure for Erikson, and a lot of fun besides.


    • Those sound like awesome memories. I’m the same way, I spent most of my childhood overseas where there weren’t Saturday morning cartoons, and so my brother and I would watch the Star Wars, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones trilogies on tape 😛


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