Book Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson

“Ah, Tammy, you really don’t understand biologicals at all, do you? We need to struggle. We need to strive for something forever just outside our reach! We need to dream! We need–Tammy, why did you go to close-up on me with the main viewer?”black line 2

Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson

Genre: Science Fiction, Satire

Series: Willful Child #1

Publisher: Tor Books (November 2014)


Wendy’s Rating: 2.5 stars

These are the voyages of the Willful Child and it’s arrogant captain, Hadrian Alan Sawback, who is this:

tumblr_inline_ncvstbfsJa1t097urcombined with a healthy dose of this:
18450627and some of this:

In my quest to read more science fiction, I have made a point of reading scifi books by authors whose fantasy novels I have enjoyed. Steven Erikson’s epic Malazan series led me to this book, which is more than just science fiction. It’s his very tongue in cheek homage to Star Trek, a show he loves dearly, and an obvious cathartic break from his decades long work on Malazan. For these reasons, I can most certainly appreciate the effort, but frankly, I’m just not a fan.

Not that the book isn’t well written. Lots of interesting characters and Erikson’s already proven skill with words and his sharp wit. It’s not easy to nail comedic timing in a non-visual medium, but Erikson manages some fantastic sight gags with just words on a page. The banter and power struggle between Sawback and Tammy, the AI that’s taken over his ship, is particularly amusing.

The problem is that the jokes get old fast when it’s just a variation of the same. Particularly the ones involving Sawback’s lechery and misogyny (he doesn’t actually hit women unless they attack first, but he does frequently undress them with his eyes and undermines them completely). I get it. This is satire and I’m fine with that. But after a while, it all gets boring because Sawback and his people really don’t learn or grow or do anything. Sawback is the intrepid hero who is always right even when he’s wrong, and even though the women don’t indulge his antics, much of which come from inner monologues anyway, I grew tired of hearing about it.

The ridiculousness of Captain Kirk is reknown and I praise Erikson for being able to satirically critique something he loves so much, but I think he could have done so within a few less pages. When I heard about the sequel, Willful Child: Wrath of Betty, I had to roll my eyes because I can’t help but think that this is just going to be more of the same, and, I predict, somewhere along the way, this will happen:


Wendy 2

For a very different opinion of this book, check out Mogsy’s review!

9 Comments on “Book Review: Willful Child by Steven Erikson”

  1. I want to read it only because the AI’s name is Tammy, lol. I am very picky about my humor in SF, so it’s possible I might have the same issues that you did. Although it sure sounds like a great idea!


  2. he he …. OK. I’ll pass on this one. 🙂 It’s not one I was very tempted by to begin with. I hate when things try to be funny, but just miss the mark by over doing it. Kinda sounds like that happened here.


    • Don’t take my word for it. Mogsy and others loved it so maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. It was indeed funny but… too much of a good thing.


  3. I tried to read this one some time ago but it ended in the DNF pile exactly for the reasons you quote: what could have been fun – and perfect – in a short story, soon becomes repetitive and not-funny-anymore in book length.


  4. Pingback: #RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Willful Child: Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson + Giveaway | The BiblioSanctum

  5. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson | The BiblioSanctum

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