Mavericks: Firefight at Overwatch Command
The charming rogue has become a familiar figure in modern fiction. Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Green Arrow, modern renditions of Wolverine, Dash Rendar, Jack Sparrow, Malcom Renalds and others all present a picture of someone who has spent time on the darker side of life without being wholly corrupted by it. Despite the life they lead and often their own refusal to admit it, underneath their rough exterior lies a heart of gold just waiting for the right cause to set it beating. Jack Wilgress, the main character of the Maverick series of Wars books fits right in with this fictional pantheon of rugged bad boy charm, making this book worth reading all by himself.
We meet Jack several years before the main action of the story, in the midst of an intense training exercise. During the course of the exercise we learn via dialogue between Jack’s commanding officer Colonel Chindon Relk and General Xander that Wilgress is the best Special Operations recruit that the Central Governance Corporation (CGC) has ever seen, a fact demonstrated by his completion of the exercise several hours ahead of schedule. We also learn that he has something of problem with authority, a problem that coupled with undisclosed objections to certain actions of the CGC military eventually prompt Jack to desert and join the Mavericks, the collective name give to the various bands of outlaws who have rejected both Earther and Gongen society.
As one would expect, the Mavericks are generally cutthroat and ruthless, more than willing to do whatever they deem necessary to survive the rigors of space, including swapping alliances at the drop of a hat.
Again as one would expect, Jack and his gang of Knaves bucks this trend, preferring to avoid killing without necessity and not taking from those who can’t afford to lose a little. This Robin Hood approach to space piracy has made Jack something of a folk hero throughout the solar system, even among the CGC military. It has also made him a target of many schemes one of which ensnares not only him but also Cait Grimalkin, leader of the Hellcats gang and one of Jack’s few friends in the world of the Mavericks. The result is that Jack gets caught up in a web of debts, deceit and revenge that forces him to not only use every bit of his resourcefulness and training but also reveal something of the noble character that lies beneath the pirate exterior.
This brings me to one of the interesting trends in the Wars books, a trend that came to mind while talking to Josh Radke, co-founder of Grail Quest Books. Each book features a small number of main characters, characters that while functioning within their respective societies also struggle with certain aspects of them and in so doing actually represent the best of their respective cultures. In the case of Jack Wilgress, he largely rejects the callous disregard for life and loyalty that is found in most of the Mavericks, focusing instead on treating his men with the same dignity and allowing the same liberty that he himself sought by leaving Earth in favor Maverick space. Combined with his witty personality and respect even for the life of his victims Wilgress represents not the cutthroat gang leader but the Romantic ideal that we to tend associate with piracy.
The basic plot of the book is quite simple and straightforward but is none the worse for it as the author does a fine job of moving the action along without forgetting to give us character moments along the way. Like Jack, we get to know the supporting cast of Axe, Ace and Colonel Relk largely through dialogue and action, though we do get a lot of internal narration from the latter, which doesn’t slow things down in my opinion but rather serves very well to showcase just how deep his obsession with capturing Jack really is.
With the second book in the Mavericks series soon to be released I strongly recommend you pick this one up as a quick summer read while waiting for the next one to arrive. As before you can get Battle of Phobos: Preludes which has just be re-released by Grail Quest Books over at Amazon.