My next indie book review is for the sci-fi novel Deep Space Accountant, by Mjke (yes, that’s the correct spelling) Wood, the first book in the Sphere of Influence series. This novel starts out with strong comedic overtones, but as it develops the story becomes closer more like a thriller. The novel is set in the 23rd century, in which humans have abandoned the scoured and polluted ruins of Earth and spread throughout the universe. The sum area of human habitation is known as the Sphere of Influence, but most of Earth’s biodiversity perished with Earth, including all trees and most animals. Lightspeed travel, teleportation, vat-grown meat, and a sentient AI companion called an imentor (using the pronouns Jim or Kim, depending on the gender of the user) are regular parts of life in the 23rd century.
The protagonist, the Deep Space Accountant in question, is Elton D. Philpotts, an everyman nobody sort of character who works a mediocre job as an ordinary ground-bound accountant but aspires to the lofty and glorious position of a deep space accountant. Not being an expert in Relativistic Accountancy (that is, assessing costs involved with lightspeed travel, the wear and tear on spaceships, and so forth), he is utterly unqualified and can only dream. It’s notable that since genetic modification of embryos is a regular part of the future, a botched attempt at making him a superior human left him with the ability to memorize any number he sees. This is useful for his job, but no replacement for Relativistic Accounting experience.
Despite his lack of qualifications, Elton lands an interview with Space Corps for a deep space accountant position, and despite the comical awfulness of the interview, he gets the job, boards a shuttle which promptly explodes, and finds himself fleeing for his life from a sinister corporation which had meant to use him as a scapegoat and pawn in their wicked schemes for…well, if you want to know what the schemes are you’ll have to read the book, because I’d hate to give further spoilers.
The writing is smooth, without the nagging little errors I’ve come to expect from so many indie novels. The humor does fade as the story progresses, but it’s good where it is. Elton, a mediocre accountant who is forced to be a hero, is an entertaining character. With his ticks and quirks and so on, I can imagine him being a character in a Wes Anderson film, which was endearing for me. The secondary characters weren’t all quite as strong, some of them kind of blended together for me, but that’s not so bad. There is a romantic arc to the story which was a little improbable, but it’s a genre of improbable things, so that’s not so bad either. Elton really does have “plot armor”, consistently surviving shootings and crashes and explosions and so forth because the story needs him alive, but being a comedy, this sort of thing is expected. There was one weakness to the story, in my opinion. The main antagonist, a Space Corps bigwig named Martin Levinson, is a pretty clichéd character. He’s a bad guy in a business suit, driven by greed and sociopathy without any meaningful complexity behind him, and characters exactly like him have been oozing their way through the offices of sci-fi in various media for decades.
All in all, the story was a good one. I enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it for fans of comedy (specifically off-beat comedy) and sci-fi (including hard sci-fi, which we so rarely see). I’d especially recommend it for sci-fi fans who are looking for something fresh and different.