Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hard Luck Hank: Prince of Suck by Steven Campbell review

    The HARD LUCK HANK series is a very entertaining ride. It's basically a combination of a parody noir detective novel with a science fiction series. Hank is a professional thug and no matter how many times he saves the galaxy or gets promoted, he remains a guy who breaks legs for a living. It's who he is and that is a universal constant whether he's working for gang bosses, corporates, the government, or the city. His simplistic world-view and general laziness are the source for much of the book's entertainment as he doesn't so much solve problems as smash things until the problem becomes something which can be smashed.

    PRINCE OF SUCK is surprising in that it actually shows the consequences for Hank's less-than-stellar problem-solving skills. The galaxy has been devastated by the recent galactic civil war with Belvaille station being one of the few places still semi-functioning. This despite the fact it has feral children running wild and has a bigger difference between the classes than some of the worst places in Brazil crossed with the worst places in America. Hank's own life is coming to an end as his mutation, which keeps him alive against almost all attacks, has gotten to the point where it's killing him. Even Garm isn't a source of relief for him as she's become the shut-in owner of the station not seen by anyone.

    I'm going to be honest and say this is my least favorite of the Hard Luck Hank novels. That's not to say I didn't find it enjoyable but it's lacking in the super-memorable moments of the other stories. Aside from the introduction of the Ak and Hank's struggle to survive his new condition, I didn't really think too much of this story. I think part of this has to do with the fact the subject matter is a lot more serious and Hank's "solutions" to problems aren't as funny when they basically boil down to fascism. Hank finding out tossing people into prison for life and letting them make their own rules, including keeping women as slaves, being BAD isn't exactly something that inspires me to root for our hero.

    The above refers to the Royal Wing where Hank has created Belvaille's only prison. It's a spaceship where the only punishment is life in prison and the only guards are space as well as your fellow prisoners. Hank is the sole determinant on who goes in and there's no appeal or parole. Eventually, Hank realizes this is awful for the aforementioned reasons it's not gender-segregated but by that point you're thinking, "What the hell, Hank?" I know he's not supposed to be a good guy but it doesn't quite cross as many lines as it needs to in comedy.

    Despite this, I actually felt for Hank as he's dying and his only friend in the world has betrayed him. My father was a very large man who suffered numerous heart attacks that just progressively got worse so, of course I sympathized with Hank. I also note he's trapped in a situation which is steadily getting worse despite his attempts to make it better. Watching this sad interpretation of Hank does provide a surprising amount of drama for a story about a really fat thug made of what amounts to concrete.

    In conclusion, I enjoyed this book but not as much as the others and am glad the subsequent novels pick up steam significantly. I was torn between giving this book a 3 out of 5 and a 4 but I'm settling on a three because I'm going to give much higher for later works.


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