A murdered secret agent is cloned and sent back to the stars to undertake more missions—including investigating his own killing—in the first installment of Smith’s (Kat Cubed, 2016) Space Operetta series.
Fifty-year-old Jack Jones was a spacegoing entertainer—not only Earth’s greatest singer, but also its cultural ambassador to other civilizations in deep space, bringing them such things as Gilbert and Sullivan tunes. But while onboard the mighty starship Shakespeare with his wife, Gina, and a troupe of performers, Jones had another, more sinister role as an undercover assassin. After bullets cut him down, he’s quickly cloned by the Terran Cultural Committee—but in his downloaded memories, the last 32 years of recollections are somehow missing. Physically and mentally, he’s now a strapping, sexually active 18-year-old who must relearn his training and, if possible, solve his own murder. His masquerade as “Jack Junior,” his own long-lost son, doesn’t last long, though, especially with his baleful wife. Soon there are more mysterious deaths as the ship goes from planet to planet on a show circuit. Overall, Smith serves up a lot of sex, derring-do, and Shakespeare references in this pulpy sci-fi title. It’s certainly a lighthearted lark (complete with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shoutout), although it overdoes the adolescent humor, even if it is by design. In one twist, a faulty starship drive based on “quantum entanglement and improbabilities” may be causing unlikely events and out-of-character behavior—a cute idea but one that Douglas Adams hit first and better in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Still, there’s a great last-act reveal regarding Jack’s antagonist and even a concluding nonfiction essay on the physics used in the story, as polymath Smith has a doctorate in particle physics.
Skulduggery, sex, and Shakespeare abound in a sci-fi tale full of sound and fury, signifying fun.