Charles “Chuck” Higgins was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he bumped into an inebriated space traveler named Joppenslik “Jopp” Wenslode. Quickly captured by the Prime Partners Intergalactic Consortium, Chuck and Jopp are forced to work together, hauling cargo between space destinations. Their friendship is solidified when Haaga Viim and his crew of mercenary space pirates attack Jopp and Chuck’s cargo ship, causing them to crash on an outpost planet. The madcap adventure takes off from there, and after some plot twists and red herrings, the pair solve their crisis.
First-time novelist Patrick Edwards has written a fun, intergalactic adventure that is reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Edwards has integrated a contemporary American guy, which has allowed the author to interject popular culture references from Adams’ magnum opus, Joss Whedon’s Firefly, The Twilight Zone, and many others. Edwards also includes numerous American slang phrases, and he uses them to balance out and give context to the various galactic species’ slangs that Chuck encounters. Alien and space travel terminology is interspersed into the story, but they are used sparingly so that technobabble does not take away from the tone of the humorous adventure Edwards has worked diligently to create.
The characters are enjoyable and fall easily into the designated protagonists and antagonists camps. Chuck and Jopp are developed quickly and efficiently, and Edwards’ skill with dialogue banter between the main two characters was a pleasure to read. Edwards did occasionally have the characters try to explain a slang phrase with some humorous results. The nicknames used for each – Earth ape and Lemonhead – never failed to solicit a chuckle each time used. Bhanakhava Bhen Bhindo and Rohi Kahpanova tend to be more serious, so they are often the “straight person” in the humorous moments with Jopp and Chuck, and it works to the advantage of propelling the story forward. Bhanakhava and Rohi thankfully know how to let go just a little bit, so readers will find themselves quite happily rooting for them, as well. Haaga, as the main antagonist in the story, probably could have used a little more screen time, or alternatively, had a few more minor antagonists for the group to encounter through the story.
The pacing was quick and engaging. Edwards kept the characters’ adventure moving along, but not so fast that it lost any readers. There were a couple of red herrings which added to the enjoyment of the story. Edwards’ inclusion of greys was funny, and the couple of bar scenes hearkened to the various cantina scenes that have dotted the Star Wars franchise over the years. It was a nice touch that was easy to visualize and heightened the pleasure of those moments.
Space Tripping was published by Inkshares (founded in 2013), which publishes books based on reader selection (pre-orders). In early 2016, Inkshares partnered with Nerdist and Geek & Sundry and led them to hold themed contests. (See Digital Book World announcement dated February 1, 2016.) Edwards’ book was in the top three for the theme of space opera, and it was well deserved at that. A thrilling, intergalactic adventure story that’s a thoroughly fun read, Space Tripping is a must for science fiction/fantasy readers. And, if the excerpt for the follow-up novel, Space Tripping: Holy Hooch, is any indication, Edwards is well on his way to creating an ongoing, worthwhile space opera series.