Four Royal Crowns
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this story from the description; I was expecting a two-fisted, butt-kicking shoot-em-up with a side order of humor. The main character seems to fit my expectations; he sounds like a man who’s been around the galaxy, and now sits around telling stories (probably embellished) of his adventures. However, the stories he tells are primarily humorous rather than action oriented, and he tells them in a flippant style.
Normally, I would say that I don’t like humorous science fiction, and that I don’t care for a flippant writing style, but I really enjoyed this story. You know you’re reading work by a skilled author when you read something outside your interests, and still think it’s great.
The author was apparently working on (or finished?) a novel similar to this story, titled Voodoo Robot Chili. The marketing message is confusing. Maybe Voodoo Robot Chili was released some time in 2012, but was subsequently pulled from the virtual shelves? I don’t see it for sale now, but there are several references on the web to a 2012 release date. Eat Fish and Die also seems to have been put out under two different author names (Saul Garnell and S. Ron Mars) using the same biographical information.
OK, let’s get back to Eat Fish and Die. Although the short story is primarily humorous, it deals with a “serious” science fiction issue as well, and deals with it more successfully than many “serious” sci-fi stories.
The main character has a partner on his military mission: a giant fighting robot with the brain of a beluga whale. (I guess that makes it a cyborg, technically.) Purely by coincidence, the aliens they are fighting happen to resemble fish. Unfortunately for the main character, beluga whales don’t think about things exactly the way humans do, and he has to convince his partner to stick to the plan. The thoughts of man and whale in this story seem more “alien” to each other than what you’ll find in many stories about humans meeting extraterrestrials. The human-whale interaction, delivered in a readable style, has earned this story an award of four Royal Crowns.