Skeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Skeleton Crew, by Gre7g Luterman. Illustrated by Rick Griffin.
Lansing, MI, Thurston Howl Publications, September 2017, trade paperback $11.99 (215 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $2.99.

The title page says Skeleton Crew. The cover says The Kanti Cycle: Skeleton Crew. The spine says The Kanti Cycle. 1 Skeleton Crew. Which is the definitive version?

Probably the latter. Skeleton Crew is the first book of Kanti’s adventures. There will be at least a trilogy.

I am more uneasy about calling this a “First Edition, 2017”. I reviewed Luterman’s CreateSpace edition a long time ago. This new version contains minor revisions and all new illustrations by Rick Griffin, so it may be a preferred version. Thurston Howl Publications’ smaller type size has reduced it from 259 pages to 215 pages. But it is not so different that the plot synopsis in my earlier review cannot serve for this edition as well.

“This is the first hard science-fiction novel I’ve ever read with absolutely no humans in it. The cover […] shows two of the main characters; Commissioner Sarsuk, a kraken, holding Kanti, a geroo. All of the other characters in the novel are geroo. There are […] full-page illustrations […] by Rick Griffin of Housepets! fame, showing such geroo characters as Kanti, Saina, Tish, Captain Ateri, Chendra, and more.

The geroo are unclothed, with thick tails and fur. There are frequent mentions in the text of twitching ears, tail rings, and the like. Kanti is called Shaggy for his unruly fur.

Skeleton Crew is set entirely on, or within, the huge generation exploratory starship White Flower II in interstellar space. […] Four centuries earlier, the krakun came to the primitive planet Gerootec and offered to hire thousands of the overpopulated geroo as their starship crews. The geroo who went into space and their descendants would never see Gerootec again, but they would live in luxury compared to the backward geroo on their homeworld. Technically, the White Flower II belongs to the krakuns’ Planetary Acquisitions, Incorporated, with a mission of finding new planets that can be colonized.

New planets for the krakun. Never for the geroo.

After 400 years, some geroo are asking if the krakun are their employers or their slavemasters. Commissioner Sarsuk is Planetary Acquisions’ representative to the White Flower II. As you can guess from the cover, he is the novel’s villain.

“Strictly speaking, all krakun vessels prohibited alcohol. But enforcement of that law was half-hearted at best. Showing up to work drunk might land a crewman before a judge, but only the krakun really cared if anyone drank during their down-time.

If a krakun caught someone drinking, he’d probably toss that geroo in the recycler. But that’s how the monstrous creatures handled most problems they encountered. Fortunately, the White Flower II seldom hosted anyone from Krakuntec. The commissioner visited periodically to check on the ship, but he wasn’t liable to stroll down any of the decks – not any of the ones with a three-meter clearance, at least.” (p. 14)

“Kanti headed off to the gravity down-wells and hopped back to deck twenty-four. The wells were essentially stairwells without the stairs – simple platforms that geroo could jump off to reach the level below. The artificial gravity in the wells was turned down to a tiny fraction of normal, so each hop was slow and gentle.

Each platform shadowed the opening down to the next level; so to travel multiple levels, one simply hopped, turned around, and hopped again until reaching the desired deck. The overlapping structure ensured that a geroo could not fall multiple levels accidentally.” (p. 15)

The White Flower II has a crew of ten thousand geroo. Exactly. 10,001would be overpopulation, and the krakun’s policy for overpopulation is – messy. And that’s one “law” that Commissioner Sarsuk enforces ruthlessly.

Both the tech-talk and the plot are fascinating. This review is heavy on the novel’s technology, and reveals almost nothing about its plot, because the plot is full of twists and surprises. Even revealing this much of the technology probably gives away some major spoilers. But Skeleton Crew is a real page-turner. I could hardly put it down for wanting to find out what would happen to Kanti and his friends next.

“A well-placed kick into Kanti’s stomach dropped him back to the deck, grasping his gut and gasping for breath.

Ateri knelt before the shaggy geroo and whispered in his ear. ‘Listen very closely to me, kerrati. You will not discuss what was said here today—ever. You will never, ever, say the words, ‘skeleton crew’ again. Is that understood?’

Kanti nodded. Tears streamed down his muzzle.

‘If you do, I promise that I will find out,’ Ateri said calmly. ‘And when I do, I will rip chunks of you out with my bare paws … and toss them into the recycler one by one … until all that remains of you … is your blood in my fur … and your screams in my ears.’” (p. 133)

Fred Patten

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