“Cartel Incorporated: The Ballad of James Layne” by Jeff Laschuck

I have given this novel a high rating, not because it is deathless literature, but because it delivers exactly what it promises. It is aimed at young male readers interested in violent and antisocial digital games like “Grand Theft Auto.” However, it doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to mimic a game. This is Space Opera at its most basic: simple plot, interesting but stereotyped characters with straightforward motivation, a whole lot of scientific toys and action, action, action.

It is the story of three typical American “good ol’  boys,” unmotivated twenty-somethings whose only interests are liquor, hot cars, guns, and girls (in that order). Luck presents them with an alien 3-D printer that can create anything they want. Predictably, they fabricate hot vehicles and spaceships with fancy guns, and go looking for adventure, during which they find plenty of liquor. The “girls” come far down the list.

This sort of story doesn’t usually have much going for it thematically, but reading between the lines, the unfortunate conclusion we must draw is that young men in this situation, given the choice, are pretty much doomed to become criminals.

But we don’t complain; that concept probably appeals to the intended readership.

So, if you’re going to enjoy this book be ready to suspend your disbelief a lot. For example, a phone-sized gadget that can convert a 1977 Dodge B100 van into an ass-kickin’ spaceship.

Also, be ready for a certain amount of stereotyping. The three main characters are popped out of the same mould. Aided by the author’s loose attitude towards point-of-view, they pretty much blend together.

The story could be improved by a bit more urgency in the conflict. Our heroes meander through the adventure in the same manner they have lived their lives; the wind and the currents of space blow them wherever they will. It’s hard to get involved in a conflict when the characters themselves don’t seem to care too much what happens in the long run.

And a warning to more sophisticated customers; this is an entertaining read, but you gotta remember that what appeals to these characters — like getting pie-eyed on a different type of liquor every night — gets real old, real fast.

Highly recommended for YA Space Opera fans. A fun, quick read for others.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This book was originally published at Reedsy Discovery

About the Author: Gordon Long

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.