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STAR CAPTAIN ANNIE

Three Episodes In…

By Wayne Basta, author of Seraph's Gambit

Jan 2, 2019: "Star Captain Annie" by Will Cereal starts out with a nearly derelict ship. The sentient AI searches for any surviving crew but the only survivor turns out to be the captain’s infant daughter; who is immediately promoted to captain. The next episode jumps to find a nine-year-old Captain Annie the sole crew aboard the Nightingale on her way to a trade deal with an unsavory character called Ashur over a junk planet.

The rest of the next two episodes see Captain Annie’s deal falls apart as Ashur betrays her and then a notorious pirate attacks. The deal goes bad but clever Annie surmises, correctly, that pirate Captain Scarheart is nothing more than a ruse. Turns out, he’s nothing more than a teenager named Nate playing a part, under the guidance of another AI. Meanwhile, the artifact Annie wanted to retrieve tumbles to the planet below, right into the hands of an orphan girl named Kaori, marooned on the planet of junk. 

Of course, the artifact is immediately stolen by the Scrap King as tribute. Kaori meets the trader Ashur, come to retrieve his artifact. She takes him to the King and learns the concept of rebellion, using a French term Viva la Revolucion, spoken by a non-human. Kaori then proceeds to lead the other scrappers in a spontaneous revolt against the scrap king. 

To say "Star Captain Annie" is quirky would be putting it mild. The concept of an infant being raised by an AI to become a starship captain is quite unique. A new twist on the ‘raised by wolves’ trope. The prose in the prologue intrigues and engages you. The opening scenes with Annie are amusing but almost to an extreme. She commands the AI, whose raised her, like a confident captain, who wears spaceship jammies and has a captain hat glued to her spacesuit helmet. It’s almost as if the story is trying to hard to be quirky.

The scenes with Kaori are more engaging, at least at first. When she suddenly discovers the concept of rebellion after a single comment from Ashur, and then is inspired to lead a rebellion of other scrappers, it goes off the rails. Her story goes from interesting to ridiculous in a heartbeat. 

To further complicate things, the stories formatting is just atrocious. Some paragraphs are nicely spaced. Some have two lines between them. POV shifts multiple times, from Annie, to Ashur, to Kaori, to Nate, to a scavenger drone. But you can only tell via context because there is no other indication. It finally becomes untenable in the third episode where, instead of too many spaces between paragraphs, there aren’t enough and the whole thing becomes a giant wall of text. 

Additionally, navigation between episodes is left to the whim of WordPress. There are no links to the next episode built in. Just WordPress’ randomly chosen ‘related’ links. This requires going to the table of contents page between each episode. Just one more minor annoyance. 

Still, despite those complaints, I still give it 2.5 stars, Almost Worth a Look. The prose itself isn’t bad. The concepts are great if unevenly implemented. The formatting could be fixed quite easily. So it’s almost there. I’m curious to see how all this comes together, though not curious enough to decipher the wall of text. Maybe I’ll check back in a few months.

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