Mack Maloney, |
Battle at Zero Point
The first book in Mack Maloney's Wingman series came out in 1987. By 1999 there were 15 more, so you know Maloney (a pseudonym) is doing something right.
The series is set in a post-apocalypse near future with occasional trips to alternate universes. Plots emphasize military action and the unbelievable -- literally -- exploits of Hawk Hunter, the multiverse's top fighter pilot. His talents and Maloney's prolific imagination overwhelmed the original premise, and so 2001 saw the start of the new Star Hawk series set 5,000 or so years further into the future. Hunter, thanks to time travel, remains the hero, now with an even larger scope for his exploits, and the titanic plot that was launched in Wingman continues to evolve.
Battle at Zero Point is the fourth installment in the new series and Maloney is thinking bigger in every way. Humanity now spans the galaxy and space ships travel between spiral arms as quickly as ships of today's world sail between continents. Order is maintained by two Fourth Empire organizations. The Space Force of 30 billion has taken over most of the galaxy's planets, but now dangerous friction is developing between the Space Force and the emperor's Solar Guards, 15 billion men and women responsible primarily for the protection of the Empire's center. In the midst of this, Hawk Hunter commands his own tiny force and remains determined to undo Emperor O'day and right the chain of wrongs that began when the evil side triumphed on Earth in the early Wingman novels.
The latest installment in the saga begins when Gym Bonz, the most effective of the Emperor's intelligence agents, is assigned to investigate the rumored physical disappearance of 12 spaceships that were about to be engaged by the Solar Guard. Why is the Guard keeping such tight control over the sector in which the incident occurred? Bonz of course finds that out and much more, including the very unexpected location of Hawk Hunter and the Emperor's missing daughter Xara.
Hunter is a hero most of us would like to be and Maloney has placed him in an action story with endless surprises and quirky characters. But the Star Hawk series would work better for me in a comic book format with tongue-in-cheek drawings and frequent "ZAPS!" "POWS!" and "SPLACKS!" As a long-time science fiction fan, I like more plausibility and deeper characterizations in my 341-page action novels. Here humans walk on planets with 10-times Earth mass and no explanation of why gravity isn't a problem. Joxx, a nephew of the emperor, pilots a ship by himself that a few pages earlier is described as needing a crew of 500. Unexplained and unlikely gadgets perform miracles. Plot elements are sometimes arbitrary and contrived.
While I'll pass on future installments in the Star Hawk series, mine will be missing-the-point quibbles for those who enjoy the series as well as newcomers with a readier suspension of disbelief. If you're out to save the galaxy and believe it can be crossed in 14 minutes if you just press harder on the power bar, Hawk Hunter is your man.