Rating: 5.7 (out of 10)
I fully admit that I purchased Bug Hunt because of the title. It popped up in the “Customers who bought this item also bought” queue for another book I was buying. It had a high rating and a lot of rave reviews from MilSF fans. It was advertised as book 1 of a new series by the author, called Argonauts, so it had the potential to become my new cheesy space action addiction.
I usually have pretty decent self-control when it comes to avoiding impulse buys. 9 times out of 10 I can walk past the ice cream freezer at the grocery store without buying anything. Likewise, 9 times out of ten I can stop myself from hitting the “1-click” option on amazon that tends to just leave you with a backlog of ebooks in your kindle carousel that you’re never going to read.
But it was literally called Bug Hunt; I mean, the title is basically the logline, right? Like, it’s going to be a whole book comprised of only the good parts of Starship Troopers. Space soldiers shooting space bugs! Hunting them first of course, you know, for suspense and stuff, but then shooting them. And lo and behold, I could also sync it with the audiobook, narrated by the excellent Luke Daniels, if I just checked the “add narration” box. So, yeah, I checked. And I clicked.
After the first few chapters I realized I was reading a sequel, despite the “Book 1” claim on the cover. Hooke doesn’t even bother with minimal character development, he just expects that you are already familiar with these people – who are more or less a hodge-podge of standard SF adventure archetypes who obviously know each other very well because all they do is tell each other dick-and-fart jokes – and moves on. Argonauts, it turns out, is a sequel series to Hooke’s Alien War Trilogy, though the sneaky fuckers at Amazon don’t mention that in the ad copy for the book. And for some reason neither did any of the customer reviews, so either none of those readers thought it worth mentioning, or they genuinely had no idea they were reading a sequel series and today’s run-of-the-mill MilSF fan considers dick-and-fart bantering an adequate substitute for character delineation. Back in my day we had a better class of MilSF fans. I swear, some people’s kids.
Really though, Luke Daniels is a terrific voice actor. I do most Kindle/Audible combos by listening to the narration in my car on my way to and from work, and read the kindle version on my breaks, but with this one I stopped reading the Kindle version early on and stuck to the narration. The writing wasn’t bad or anything, it was just a lot better with Daniels reading it. I also regularly listen to Daniels’ narration of Marko Kloos’ Frontline series, so I know he has a special knack for rattling off jarhead jargon and hard SF action. Hooke is pretty good at writing those things too (not as good as Kloos, but good enough to pass the smell test).
The dick-and-fart aspect of the novel, which takes up way more real estate than it should, is sadly not his forte. Verily I say unto thee, Isaac Hooke hath not met a dick-and-fart joke that he could not drag out interminably beyond the point of it not being nearly as funny as he thought it was to begin with. Poor Luke Daniels really had to put on his game face for that nonsense.
But the bug hunting! Awesome, right? Well, sort of. I did the math and the actual bug hunting takes up about 25% of the novel, and all of that 25% is concentrated into one sequence in the exact MIDDLE of the book. So instead of the carapace-shattering, goo-splattering space bug apocalypse that should occupy the climax of a novel LITERALLY CALLED BUG HUNT, the last third of the book is the crew of Serenity I mean Argonaut chasing down the dickweed responsible for the bugs and there’s a hostage to rescue and a stupid bomb or whatever and zzzzzzzzzzzzz………….
That one bug hunting sequence, though, is pretty dope. The space bugs are cool and a little different than the usual space bugs and super hard to kill. All of Hooke’s plus skills as a writer are firing on all cylinders during that one-fourth of the book, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.
As far as what the rest of the series has in store, Commander Exposition has a monologue in the last chapter that hints at the possibility of more space bug action, but sorry Isaac Hooke I’m not giving you more money so you can dole out wee bits of bug attacks in little paper cups like a volunteer at a methadone clinic. None of the titles of the other books in the series have the word “bug” in them, though I must admit that Robot Dust Bunnies (I shit you not) raises an eyebrow, and the last book in the series is called Mechs vs. Dinosaurs. Tell me though, how much of that book is actually comprised of mechs fighting dinosaurs? Not gonna happen, Mr. Hooke. Fool me twice, shame on me.