“Asteroid Outpost: a Nick Walker, UF Marshal Novel” by John Bowers is the story of, you guessed it, Nick Walker, United Federation Marshal. It is the first in a trilogy of science fiction novels involving a young lawman at lawless spaceports. The aim of the series is to recapture some essence of campy rocket-jockey stories while giving it a hard boiled exterior.
In many ways, the story is very engaging. It includes some colorful characters, a web of intricate conspiracies, and more masculinity per page than most barbarian comic books. It begins with a young marshal being sent to the most dangerous section of the galaxy on a water mining operation.
From just hours of when he gets to the outpost, he is constantly besieged by lowlifes trying to kill, double cross, or otherwise cheat poor Nick. The blonde blue eyed do-gooder kicks, punches, and shoots his way from one end of the rock to the other while investigating a criminal conspiracy that commits crimes against women.
Overall the writer put in some great work into the characters. Some of them seem like classic overplayed characters you have seen before but they came off as fresh and new here.
The fun part of this novel is how much it cherishes the "shoot’em up" aspect of its own design. It is self-aware ridiculousness that indulges in violence and explosions while still trying to pass along some commentary on popular culture.
The problem for this book is the same thing however--it is a very thinly veiled 80’s action movie plot set on an asteroid. The perfect police officer with a military record shows up in town, instantly knows the bad guys that no one else ever noticed, and proceeds to beat them up with little or no danger to himself.
To top things off, he is such a ‘gentlemen’ that he undermines every women that he meets. Every female character in the story is either a victim, a sexual object, or both to Nick. Some of them are very realistic but all of them are written as tragic maidens that can’t do anything for themselves. That’s all okay though--they don't need because Nick Walker will protect them from all harm and then sleep with them.
There is also a theme of over the top rape-torture. It could be nothing, but it seems to come up way too many times as just something people do on an asteroid.
In the end everything is tied into a nice neat bow. The incredibly transparent villain is out of the way and Nick walks into the rising artificial sun to grab some breakfast with a pair of young women he just met.
This wasn’t necessarily a terrible read. It was engaging, it was exciting, and it was interesting. Some parts of it were actually pretty well thought out. Looking back at some of the recurring themes however it is hard to look past this novel's issues.
I give “Asteroid Outpost: a Nick Walker, UF Marshal Novel” three stars for originality, fun, and explosions. It takes a hit for me with the male chauvinism, too simple “mystery,” and the sheer amount of rape.