I'm not much for sports. The other posts on this blog should pretty well make it clear that the areas of the human brain which can be dedicated to professional sports stats and rules and changes and strategies have been filled up with science fiction and fantasy, with quite a bit dedicated to the differences between 1st and 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons. That said, I've recently finished the second book in Scott Sigler's Galactic Football League series, THE STARTER.
The book is set in a future where humans and aliens play an extremely violent version of Earth football. The various sentient species involved in playing and watching these games devote enough of their violent energies toward the sport that the ever-present threat of inter-species war is averted.
That alone would have hooked me on the series, but there is quite a bit more.
I pre-ordered the book from Dark 0verlord Media and am quite impressed with the presentation. It is a solid hardcover with beautiful cover art on the dust jacket. As with THE ROOKIE, there is a beautiful glossy, full-color insert with team trivia and amazing logo art, as well as a season schedule. My daughter noticed me reading a book with a football on the cover and I told her about the alien angle, which completely answered most of the rest of the questions. The remaining,"What is that red stuff splattered across it?" was answered with an honest "It's blood." She immediately looked down at her own book, something about middle school angst or something, with a look of utter boredom and vague disgust. But she has a book report due, so she will muscle through it.
I got back to THE STARTER.
I read THE ROOKIE a couple of months back. Before that, I'd listened to it in an episodic podcast format. I totally recommend them both.
Anyway, THE STARTER. The lead character is Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old football prodigy from the Purist Nation, a collection of xenophobic planets who keep the populace subservient to the government with brutal punishment and a religious indoctrination preaching fear and hatred for all non-human species. In THE ROOKIE, Quentin's first contact with these other races is a very interesting character study into the process of overcoming preconceptions in general as well as rising above a less-than-perfect childhood.
Quentin is a lot better about it in THE STARTER. The hatred still pops up now and again, but mostly because Quentin has a very well-developed rage issue. For anyone who has read any of Sigler's other stuff, it isn't a surprise that he can make a character with rage issues three dimensional and even likable. No surprise, but remarkable.
THE STARTER covers the Ionath Krakens' first season in Tier One (the most prestigious and brutal level of the game) with Quentin as the starting quarterback. The games are extremely well written. As someone who knows very little about the game, I not only had no issue following the action, but actually found myself a little anxious as clocks ran down and just about any time the ball moved. Off the field, the action is also fast-paced, with Quentin spending more time with his teammates, visiting new planets and having extremely tense encounters with gangsters. Oh, yeah. The whole football system is pretty much owned by organized crime.
I don't know when the next book will be released, but I'll be pre-ordering it as soon as there is an option to do so. To my fellow geeks, I can assure you that THE STARTER (and THE ROOKIE) are fully accessible to football-impaired readers and are amazingly enjoyable reads. I want Ionath Krakens associated action figures. I want GFL miniature tabletop football games. I want to see a big-budget CGI masterpiece of a film version so I can bitch about the changes or the fact that they had to tone down the violence from the books for American audiences.
The podcasts are available on iTunes or at scottsigler.com. If you haven't already, download a couple and enjoy them. But you should also buy the book while you are there. Quality modern science fiction is too rare to not support.
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