Sunday, 1 September 2013

Hal Spacejock: Safe Art by Simon Haynes

Hal Spacejock: Safe Art by Simon Haynes is the sixth book in the ongoing Hal Spacejock series. Although there is a very small amount of chronology, the books all stand alone nicely, Safe Art being no exception. I have previously reviewed Hal Spacejock: Baker's Dough and Hal Junior: The Missing Case, the latter being part of a spin-off series for younger readers.
A wealthy patron is sponsoring a series of art exhibitions, and Hal Spacejock has been employed to transport valuable pieces from one venue to the next.

The only question is which of them will last longest ... Hal or the artworks?
For readers new to to the Spacejock universe, Safe Art is not a terrible place to start. A few characters from earlier books show up, but you don't have to have read any earlier books for the story to make sense. Even better, Safe Art doesn't contain any significant spoilers for earlier books (unless you count the status quo as a spoiler). I think the most compelling argument for reading these books in order is that they get funnier as they go along and reading in reverse order might be slightly anticlimactic for that reason.

This book made me laugh a lot, news that I'm sure won't come as much of a surprise to people familiar with the Hal Spacejock books. There were a few serious bits, but there were no long gaps between laughs. If puns and written slapstick are your thing (I have to say visual slapstick doesn't really do it for me, but the way Haynes writes definitely does), or if you enjoy a good comedy of errors, then this is a book for you.

And if that hasn't convinced you, it also has pretty good physics, especially considering the lack of seriousness in most of the story. It's like if The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy made more than a passing nod at the laws of physics. And also if Ford Prefect was a cargo pilot. (Yes, as I mentioned in my review of Baker's Dough, the ship travels faster than light and has artificial gravity, but everything else has accurate physics. There were a few instances I particularly appreciated since I can imagine another writer may not have bothered to be so careful.)

As well as enjoying Hal's and Clunk's antics as they attempt to deliver their cargo — and make snide remarks about the quality of the art they're transporting — I was also pleased to see the characters from "Framed" show up (a Hal Spacejock short story that's a fun read but not compulsory to enjoy Safe Art). And Harriet Walsh who appeared in an earlier book, although I have to admit it was a book I'd read long enough ago to not remember much about her except her name. Another reason I'm confident readers new to the series will have no trouble picking up Safe Art.

What more can I say? It's hilarious. Read it.

5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2013
Series: Hal Spacejock, book 6 of ? Standalone.
Format read: ePub on iThings
Source: Purchased from SmashWords
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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