Temporary Duty

Normally I don’t do book reviews.  This is not because I don’t read, but because I read everything.  Though most of my blog followers are odd ducks (this is said in the most appreciative way possible, because it takes one) I don’t think even you would stand still for a revolving selection of books, from mystery to regency romance, (I have yet to venture into the other kinds.  Baby steps) to sf, to history or popular science, some new, some re-reads, most with the notation “Meh, it was okay.”

Most books I read are in fact okay.  At least I pick them carefully enough to get that.  Very few excite a “wow” and even fewer for me to want to re-read sometime.  And even fewer do I wish to write more than one line about.  (Mind you, if you’re all extremely curious, I’m willing to post – when I remember – a series of “this week I read” probably on Saturday.  I don’t know why you’d be curious, though.  It’s kind of like listing what I had for breakfast.)

Anyway, this brings us, sideways and backwards (through gorse bushes) to Ric Locke’s book Temporary Duty.

I first became aware of it through a mention in Instapundit and I emailed Ric — I don’t even remember why.  He sent me his book.  I read it, thought “wow,” and set it aside.

Then I met Ric at Fencon, and he asked me for a blurb for TD.  At which point I thought I might as well do a review.  Only I got sick and hit my head and… life has been interesting.  So – here’s the review which would fall under “pimping my friends” and might if I meet Ric a few more times.  Right now, we’re just friendly acquaintances.

Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty is science fiction for the soul.  Not that it’s in the slightest bit spiritual or about the supernatural.

It is about the first contact between an interstellar-faring species and humanity.  The humans who get contacted are officialdom and eventually two low-ranking military men get assigned to serve in the alien ship, to prepare the ship for the detachment of troops who will go with the aliens on a voyage.  (Here you must excuse me for using – I’m sure – all the wrong terms.  I’m having trouble accessing notes on my kindle, and the reason I never write anything even vaguely military is that I make a salad of official designations.)

Through an intentional bureaucratic trick, the two end up staying aboard and visiting other worlds with the traders.

This is the barest of schematics for the novel, but Ric actually has a few surprises build in there that I don’t wish to give away.  We’ll just say that reading the novel brought back the sense of wonder I thought had vanished from science fiction.  It made me feel about 12 or maybe 13, in a good way.  I felt the same wonder and amazement I used to feel while reading The Adventures of Captain Morgan.

To an extent, it is because it’s the same type of book.  It taps into the “young man makes good” mythos going all the way to Babylonian legends.

In another way it’s a serious book of social analysis and critique, all of it wrapped in a bang up adventure.  And I liked the way his aliens answered pervasive story telling like Star Trek.  Let’s just say there is a reason that Temporary Duty is one of the finalists for the Prometheus Award.

All that said, let me say I know why it wasn’t bought by one of the major houses.  The beginning is pure wonder and takes time to develop our understanding of the world, as the main characters learn the language, etc.  A lot of the golden-age SF worked that way.  The sense of wonder was built slowly, by layers, while the characters discovered things they didn’t know about themselves and their environment.

These days, story telling requires a gun held to the head of the character in the first page – metaphorically if not realistically.  There has to be something hanging over your head.  Or, of course, it has to be a long disquisition on post modern philosophy with the barest trappings of fiction.  Thank heavens, Ric’s story is neither of these.  And thank heavens we have indie publishing which allowed this story to be published and allowed me to read it.

Now, kindly, go and buy his book, so that he’ll feel inspired to write the second one.  You see, he left a lot of puzzling hints, including an implication humans came from the stars (made me feel about 12 and reading Space Engineers) and I want him to write more about that universe and explain at least some of it.

So, go get it.  You won’t regret it.

37 thoughts on “Temporary Duty

  1. Bought it, it’s in my blackberry. Will read soonest. Love those types of books, and if Her Hoytness recommends it, I’m *there*! 😀

  2. I bought it, read it, loved it and reviewed it. It does feel like old school sci-fi and I appreciated it for that. Next time one of those smug bastard panelists at a Con sniffs that self-published stuff is crap, I’m jamming Ric’s book down his piehole.

      1. Couple of minor things —

        I’ve only been nominated for the Prometheus Award. The finalists haven’t been chosen, to my knowledge.

        If all goes well with Lightning Source, there will be a hardcopy fairly soon. It will be expensive, unfortunately. It’s l-o-n-g (another reason no tradpub wanted it) and 1.3 cents a page adds up quick.

        Thank you, thank you.


  3. Off-topic, really but:
    regency romance, (I have yet to venture into the other kinds. Baby steps)

    IMHO, about all I can bear to read anymore are Regency. I used to devour laundry baskets full of romances in my tweens. (Literally – we’d take a laundry basket to the library and return in two weeks I’d had have read most if not all of them. Granted, not all of them were romances. But this was when I was into romance and mystery primarily and before I really got into fantasy.)

    I suppose my reason for choosing Regency romance over other forms is the social velvet ropes a couple has to navigate to find each other. Which is probably why my second favorite romance genre is male/male. (The situations aren’t the same, obviously, but sometimes the set-up is similar.) I think contemporary is my least favorite subset of romance because the conflicts that separate the couple tend to be either insulting or annoying or just uninteresting.


    On-topic: I’ll have to go check the book out. :3

    1. I admittedly do not generally read romances, with the exception of Sherrylin Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series. (what can I say, I have strange taste in books, and she’s a good author) However at some time or other I have been stuck waiting somewhere and will read whatever is available. And I would have to say Regency romance would be my last choice for the very reason you claim it as your first. I both despise and don’t understand the social velvet ropes, I sort of understand them, and know intellectually that they provide these barriers, but can’t REALLy grasp that the character is held back by this stupid, artificial barrier.
      I think maybe it is because the regency is our recent history, really foriegn cultures I have much less trouble understanding that ‘foriegners are foriegn’ and have totally different “human nature’s”.

      Anyways if I had to read romances, first choices would romantic suspense, or paranormals, where there is additional plot to weave into the story.

      1. Oh, that’s fair enough! I know it’s not for everyone. xD

        I’ve read them for so long that I’ve internalized most of the rules (or, at least, most of the major ones and many of the minor ones). So I know exactly how terrible it is for a girl to reject a gentleman for a dance and then “stand up” (dance with) another gentleman later. (Social rules of the time say if you turn a guy down for any reason other than having a prior engagement for the same dance, you have to turn them ALL down the rest of the night.)

        The rules can be so deeply understood by me, that it can trigger very painful embarrassment for the character, author, or both if one of these rules is violated – no matter how I’d feel about them in a modern setting. (For example – the dancing example. In modern times, I would be rather dumbfounded if a girl felt herself forced to accept a dance with a guy she didn’t want to dance with unless there was a good reason for it. Tell a guy to cheese off already! Don’t be a dishrag!)

        Make no mistake, there are social rules in modern times too. They’re more easily broken with fewer consequences for breaking them, but they’re there. And, oddly enough, they show up a lot in paranormal series, often in the form of interactions between races (like vampires and werewolves) or within a race (werewolf alpha to werewolf beta). Actually, in paranormals, breaking these rules generally means death rather than social excommunication. xD

        1. You know, I cringe when they violate the rules, too… I mean, the authors. And WHERE did some of these get the idea that you could have a dance with the prince regent and that “restored” one’s reputation? GAG.

        2. (Social rules of the time say if you turn a guy down for any reason other than having a prior engagement for the same dance, you have to turn them ALL down the rest of the night.)

          OK. Thank you. That is what my mother taught me. This explains a great deal. I had always thought she was somehow out of step with the world. She must have been out of time.

  4. Got it for the Nook. Reviewed it both on Amazon & B&N. Love it. Read it in one day, got no sleep that night.

  5. Thanks for the heads up.
    Bought it — on my Kindle.
    TD will be next up after I finish the Bujold story I am reading now.

  6. Bought it when it came out. LOVED it, for all those same reasons. I too, am impatiently waiting for many sequels. You reading this Ric? Get to work!

      1. I’m about halfway through.

        Unfortunately I’m not as diligent (or compulsive 🙂 ) as Sarah is. Real Life©™(Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) keeps intruding.


        1. i have had a further thought on this subject.

          Start a blog.

          Post a chapter a week of what you have with a big tip jar button.

          Post a $ amount, something rational that guarantees the next post…

          Post the next chapter when it’s gotten paid for.

          We’ll have that damned thing written in a year, yes we will…..



          Perhaps Sarah has your address. We could come and get your cats and hold them hostage. No? We could threaten to sit outside your house and play broadway show tunes on bagpipes?

  7. Got it a while back after it was recommended on the Bar, and re-read it recently. It was just as good the second time around. Looking forward to the next one. There’s plenty of room for a series in that universe.

  8. I do not yet have an electronic reader, and was quite content. I love the feel a book in my hands. Now I read a review of a book, thinking as I go, this sounds very interesting. Oh, and anything where the description so brings anything RH to mind (Citizen of the Galaxy) means I want to read it. This is the very first time I have ever thought that it might be desirable to get an electronic reader…

    I am not sure I like today, it is turning out unsettling. First I am channeling Ms. Bennett, now this. Well, at least I have found another person who knows there is a difference between acquaintances and friends.

  9. I’m amazed, annoyed, and impatient. (Good things – wait for it.)
    Amazed – I started it, thinking I’d read a few chapters, then go do some chores & come back to it. At 1:30 in the AM I figured out the chores were not getting done, at least not that night.
    Annoyed – Where did the freaking time go? I want one of them zwitherzwacky things, ASAP! The ending wasn’t quite what I’d expected – hopefully that’s because there are hooks for more stories in this world.
    Impatient – Where’s the sequel? What happens to the //
    blocked by Spoiler Police//?

  10. I love the book.

    I loved it the first time I read it, and I don’t know how long ago that was. I’ve got a copy of a post I sent him way back in early March of 2003 (On 2003/03/09 at 11:03 baenslushcomments Listmanager wrote…) begging him for another copy of it as I’d had a HD failure and lost the copy I’d had, and I’d wanted to reread it. So I know I’ve read it at last 6 times in the past 9 years.

    The earliest copy I’ve got of it is from February 23, 2004, and that version is still late enough to not have the prologue I remember from the “original”.

    If Ric is, as he says above, “…about halfway through…”, then I’m not expecting the sequel to come out much before 2020, as the same message referenced above also has:

    “>>1. Do you have anything else set in that universe you could let me
    >No, not at the moment. I’m currently outlining a successor, and hope to
    >start writing chapters sometime later this month.”

    I’m still eagerly looking forward to sequels, though.

    As ti The Prometheus Awards, I’ve taken a look, and the Best Novel finalists list still has’t been published. The list for Hall of Fame has, but no Best Novel. 😦

  11. Well, it’s taken him 8 years to get to the halfway point (which based on TD [220k words] would be a regular to a large novel in any other genre), so he’s writing between 37 and 38 words per day [wpd] (37.6 something). If I am to be generous and allow that he probably doesn’t write on the days when he’s working (has him writing on weekends), that ups his output to a prodigious 131.75 wpd. 🙂

    I don’t think leaning will work. Sitting might. Shackling him down and flogging might work too — then again, he might enjoy it, and that would have a deleterious effect on productivity

  12. No sequel, no cookie. I want more. 😉

    Other than that.. I suppose stop-and-rob was the most memorable part, did not know that one.

        1. I like the bag pipes. A legion of kilted barflies, playing bagpipes. As long as I get tapes of nice male leggy goodness, I’m good to go. (WHAT? It’s not like it’s shocking or anything. I just like guys in kilts. And can’t convince my sweetie to wear one. SIGH.)

          1. I gather that horses are very very expensive to care for if you don’t have feed, pasture and barn already.

            I vote for the bagpipes and an unending chorus of Its A Small World After All. I suspect that the players and singers would have to wear earplugs to maintain sanity. O, yes, and Morris Dancers, we must have Morris Dancers.

Comments are closed.