In his third installment of the Starship series, Mike Resnick brings us further adventures of Wilson Cole and the Theodore Roosevelt. Once one of the most decorated Commanders in the Galactic Navy, Wilson Cole was shunted to every crap posting a Commander could have because he valued doing what was morally right over directly obeying the commands of those with higher rank. That he also got the job done did not matter because Cole had a bad habit of embarrassing the upper brass of the Navy while doing his job with precision and competence.
Back in the first novel (Starship: Mutiny) Wilson Cole was imprisoned by his superiors on the charge of mutiny (fact) and was broken out by his crew. He took his ship and crew, and went on the lam. The second novel (Starship: Pirate) featured Cole and his crew in their attempts to make a living on the Frontier and away from the Core Worlds of the Republic. With the start of Starship: Mercenary, Wilson Cole has given up piracy and is now hiring out his ship as a mercenary ship.
This is easy reading military science fiction and like most of Mike Resnick's work, Starship: Mercenary is a compelling read. As I mentioned in my review of Starship: Pirate,
If I called the Starship novels as introductory sci-fi, please do not take that as a knock. It isn't. It is just a statement that a reader who knows nothing about science fiction can pick up one of these books and be equally as entertained as one who has been reading the genre for years. It's a good introduction to what sci-fi can be. It isn't just about the Big Idea. It’s also about the fun story.
This opinion is just as valid now, for Starship: Mercenary, as it was for Starship: Pirate. Resnick tells a tale of high adventure on the lawless Frontier worlds. He visits a giant space station (no jokes about it not being a moon, please), features a Pirate Queen as a prominent character, and brings the reader everything one has come to expect from this series while still delighting in the new.
If one has already read the first two books, then the reader will know exactly what to expect in Starship: Mercenary. If one has not, well, Resnick makes the book easy to pick up and start in without knowing anything of what came before. Oh, sure, it helps to have a familiary with Cole's crew, but it is hardly essential. At the same time, Resnick doesn't spend chapters bringing the reader up to speed.
This may be an odd comparison given the length and success of Mike Resnick's career, but Starship: Mercenary is a fun military science fiction novel that fans of John Scalzi's work will want to jump right into. There is a certain comparison and similarity in style.
The bottom line is that Starship: Mercenary is a fun book to read and bring on Starship: Rebel!