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What is Lost Souls?

Maurice “Moss” Foote used to be somebody. Then nobody. Then somebody again, for a while. Now he’s back to square one, using his last hundred credits to try and get back his old ship and start over. Again.

Hel doesn’t have a last name. Or maybe she does. She was born a slave. Or maybe she wasn’t. It’s all rather confusing to her, just like the strange compulsion that has her trying to build… something out of spare ship parts in the junkyard she calls home.

When she sees an opportunity to escape on board a rebuilt transport, she takes it, not realizing what she’s getting herself into. All she knows is the answers she’s looking for are on board that ship. Or maybe they’re inside her head.

Roy “Hellno” Herzog left the Silver Legion in favour of becoming a pirate, only they didn’t like his attitude any more than the Legion did. Now he’s got a lead on a prize so big it could set him up for life, if he can stomach working with other people.

All he’s got to do is track down one runaway slave.

Review

I’m familiar with Noah Chinn primarily from his column in KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE MAGAZINE, which is the successor to DRAGON magazine except for the fact it is much-much funnier. There he reviews indie books and science fiction/fantasy that has served as one of my guides to purchases for the past few years. He was also the author of Fuzzy Knights, which was a cartoon about plushies playing Dungeons and Dragons. So, like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshow, when I heard he had written a book, I decided to check it out with all haste. I’m glad I did.

The premise for LOST SOULS is that Maurice “Moss” Foote is a star pilot turned smuggler that has recently lost his ship to a crime lord. He used to be a big famous intergalactic hero supported by a megacorporation but lost his mojo when he went on a drunken binge that cost him all his endorsements. Accompanying him is the AI of his ship, Violet, and a runaway kleptomaniac slave named Hel.

Lost Souls is definitely of the Firefly, Traveller, Privateer, The Outer Worlds, and Han Solo Adventures sort of storytelling. It’s not about big galactic adventures and overthrowing evil empires but dealing with the day-to-day problem of keeping the lights on in your ship as well as your hyperdrive fueled. When I played Star Wars D6 back in high school, this was actually the game style preferred by the tabletop RPG as the rules meant that if you tried to do too much pulpy heroic science fiction heroism then you got shot in the face.

The universe that Noah Chinn has created is definitely on the funnier and enjoyable side of things, though. Moss has strong Malcolm Reynolds energy and yet he’s a lot less cynical and grumpy despite his losses. Perhaps because he has the self-awareness that the majority of his problems are his own making. He is very much against casual killing and is happy to give an escaped slave a lift or a job but he’s also someone that isn’t seeking out adventure. Whatever he used to do in order to be a big hero is something he can’t afford anymore and he’d prefer to try to just rebuild his life quietly if he can.

Too bad there are SPACE PIRATES out there. Yes, I put the words all in caps because SPACE PIRATES deserve to be capitalized. A hero is only as good as his villain and the SPACE PIRATES are pretty well-realized in this world. They’ve taken over a border world with their syndicate but are a feuding bunch of questionably professional scumbags that prefer to go after the lowest hanging fruit they can. They’re dangerous, don’t get me wrong, but not so terrifying as our hero can’t believably oppose them.

The world building for this space opera setting is also pretty well done. Like in many settings, humanity made a bunch of genetically engineered slaves and they rebelled. However, this is centuries later and said genetically engineered slaves are now the ones in charge. It’s left natural born types like Moss in a second class citizenship state but not so much that it dominates the storyline. Also, there’s a very humorous bit where an out of universe document talks about how the idiot science fiction writers of the 20th century envisioned aliens all looking like humans. Then we went out into space and it turned out all aliens looked like humans anyway (despite it being acknowledged as making no scientific sense).

Lost Souls, despite its title, is a light read even if it’s not a short one. It’s about 350 pages or as many as your typical paperback science fiction or fantasy book from the Nineties. The story is neither especially humorous or overly serious but keeps a brisk entertaining pace throughout.A little more serious than your typical MCU movie I’d say and far less on the quippage. There’s some ridiculous stuff in the book but I was reasonably able to buy it as a “serious” setting. What’s my recommendation? Well, I’m going to go buy and read the sequel now so you tell me.

Available here

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