Hal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes, is a fast-paced, light-hearted romp centered around the pilot of a tramp space freighter with the unlikely title name. He falls (often literally) into one hapless and hopeless situation after another, along with assorted robotic (and about equally inept) friends while being chased by assorted do-badders with an almost equal degree of ineptitude.
While the writing is generally fine and easy to breeze through, the lack of any meat on the bones in terms of satire or some underlying theme left it feeling like empty calories to me. (Hmm…what’s up with the recent food metaphors and me?). While our Hal is not an anti-hero, he really doesn’t have any particularly redeeming features, either — other than being basically good (though not averse to breaking the law when it won’t hurt anyone else who doesn’t deserve to be hurt). With the humor being mostly slapstick or otherwise fairly sophomoric (sorry any 2nd-year high schoolers, nothing personal), it felt closer to Benny Hill or The Three Stooges than the more sophisticated satire of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett. Mind you: Benny Hill used to be a regular guilty pleasure of mine, though I never got into Larry, Moe, or Curly.
If you like your humor quick, easy, and cheap (it’s free right now at Amazon, anyway — presumably to suck you into the sequels), give it a shot. I, however, probably will not be partaking of any second course.