Friday, July 21, 2017

Hard Luck Hank: Basketful of Crap by Steve Campbell


    HARD LUCK HANK: BASKETFUL OF CRAP is the sequel to SCREW THE GALAXY and returns us to Belvaille Station, the worst place in the galaxy to live. In fact, the station is completely different from the way it was before and there's a significant time-jump from the previous book. Gone are the gangs of Belvaille, who dominated the setting before, and replacing them are soulless corporations that took advantage of Hank's deal with the Confederation in order to produce goods illegal elsewhere but legal on the station.

    I found this to be a clever bit of satire even it's not something that's the central focus of the plot. One of the things which a "pot-advocate" friend of mine fears is that, as soon as the legalities are worked out, corporations are going to destroy any of the local growers who are presently benefiting from its legalization in states like Colorado and Seattle. In the case of Hank, a former professional leg-breaker extraordinaire is now reduced to being a doorman for one of the station's upscale casinos.

    The plot, if you can call it that (Hank's life is more like a horrible series of events he chooses to survive), is a pair of beautiful female assassins hire him to find their missing sister. This is after he trips over a corpse on his front door that he didn't make and can't find someone to pick up. Everything you need to know about Hank can be summarized by the fact he refuses to pay $500 to get a corpse removed from his doorstep and is too lazy to dump it somewhere else himself. Later, Hank is hired by a mysterious black-eyed man called "The Naked Guy" to do a number of bloody deeds across the station. This all climaxes to reveal what is as close to the archvillain of the series and an event which shapes the course of the next five or six books.

    This novel solidifies the "Hank formula" for the most part as it has less plot than the previous book and that's the point. Hank refuses to be proactive unless he's paid to do something and thus events pile up around him that eventually end up being revealed to be all interconnected. Very often, Hank will be hired to do some investigating but, lacking any leads, he ends up taking a second or third job that pays directly. These jobs inevitably involve violence against someone who may or may not be deserving but always end up causing massive chaos.

    I'm a bit saddened Hank's mutant neighbors depart the series at this point since I enjoyed their idealistic/naive perspective on events. I also wasn't sure how I felt about the retcon that Garm is actually from a planet of sexy female assassins. On one hand, it's so outrageous that it fits perfectly with the universe, on the other it's a retcon which disrupts an already-strong character's history. The absence of the mutants opens up more room for Hank's insane inventor friend, Delovoa, who becomes a staple of the series.

    Part of what I love about the books is the covers are actually extremely faithful to what's going on in the book. Hank really does acquire a helicopter chain gun (except there's no helicopter since it's a space station) which fires grenades. That's in addition to dealing with two beautiful Drow-esque assassins who dress completely unlike you'd expect stealthy ninjas to dress. Even Hank's pair of shorts are entirely how he dresses in the book. Garm is also a bit of fanservice on the front which we see on several other covers.

    Is the book any good? Oh yes, it's a wonderful parody of science fiction, detective fiction, and space opera all at once. Hank is probably the worst person in the world you could call for anything resembling "subtle" work but that's why he gets results. It's equivalent to hiring the Dude from The Big Lebowski only putting him in the Hulk's body and making him really violent. Okay, that's actually a terrible description but I'd watch the hell out of that movie just like I enjoy the hell out of these books. Really, my only complaint is I don't think the villain is appropriate for Hank as his revealed backstory is way too over-the-top for this relatively grounded series.

8/10

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