Scott Sigler does it again with The Starter, part two of his “galactic football league” series.
I had described The Rookie (part one) as being wildly entertaining, and The Starter continues in the same page-turning manner. If there’s going to be only two books I read in a year that have a sports theme, I’ll go with Sigler’s work.
Imagine the universe, but in the future, seven centuries from now. Image other species of life in outer space, intelligent beings who are physically very different than humans, but with thriving planets and huge, populated cities. Like all other races that intermingle, they’ve had times of war and times and peace. They’ve long ago staked out planets and territories as their own. Now imagine the larger of the species, including a bigger version of humans called “Heavy Gs,” coming together to play the game of football.
Sound crazy or maybe like some cheap rip-off of Star Wars? It’s not. Sigler’s work is original, interesting and engaging, not to mention quite amusing in many places.
In The Rookie, we’re introduced to our main character, Quentin Barnes, a football quarterback. He’s a young orphan from a planet of “Purists” who believe the human race is the only true species and that all others are abominations or even “demonic.” But one day during a game on his small home planet, Quentin is purchased by the owner of a Tier 2 football team and ushered into the world of inter-species play. The team owner is a gangster and member of the organized crime world and happens to be of a species called the Quyth. Because of his background, Quentin has to do some hard personal attitude adjustments in terms of how he looks at non-humans. In that sense, this book continues in the theme of being partially a commentary on the problems of racism and differing religious beliefs that exist on earth today.
While the first book focuses much on the game and how Barnes must acclimate his skills to the different physical abilities of non-human players, The Starter deep dives into the darker side of the game. Behind the throwing and tackling and game strategies, there’s a whole world of high-stakes money, manipulation and power struggle. Many of the football teams are owned by crime bosses, and Quentin, being the team leader, gets caught between some of it. There are times this book gets gritty and even a little scary. But it’s all believable.
Quentin’s team, the Ionath Krakens (from the planet “Ionath”), doesn’t do well at first. They are lacking certain good players and have rookies that aren’t doing the job. The title of this book reflects the fact that Quentin Barnes ends up being a starter quarterback on a Tier 1 football team. Much of this book is the Krakens struggling to maintain their Tier 1 status. The result is that not only does Barnes have to play politics, he has to deal with getting thrust into the world of stardom and all the baggage that comes with fame and fortune on a galactic-scale.
As with part one, I highly recommend The Starter. I can see why these books have been so popular. You start reading and you just don’t want to put it down until you find out what happens. That’s good fiction.