In the realm of the surreal, silly, and downright hilarious, The Court of Crusty Killings by Michael Ronson is an unexpected delight, packed with more tongue-in-cheek humor than one book should ever hold.
Captain Space Hardcore is a character torn from sci-fi pulp thrillers of an older age, but the sharp wit and unique personality of this unforgettable leading man makes him eternally contemporary. His manservant and sidekick, Ebeneezer Funkworthy is an equally entertaining complement to the heroic central figure, and their adventures are truly the stuff of a bizarre imagination.
The premise of Captain Space Hardcore – the perfect model of a man, the ubermensch – sets up this story to be comically self-aware and never afraid to take the mickey out of itself. Within this detailed universe, anecdotal recollections of past adventures and accomplishments could be enough, but the specific plot of this cosmic caper is also unique and funny in its own right.
The twin worlds of Aplubia – the setting of this unfolding drama – are a place of deep intrigue, captivating women, and a dark conspiracy that these two hapless heroes are hell-bent on unraveling. The story is epic and dramatic, but also goofy and whimsical, and it is this blend of creativity and sincerely good writing that makes the book such a joy to read. The spitfire dialogue keeps the pace of the story moving along, and with every personality being decidedly larger than life, it is easy to fall into this immersive world and regret reaching the final page.
Within a book that some may label too goofy to be considered “high literature,” the maturity of the writing and the visceral descriptions are surprising, so despite the pulp nature of the content, the quality far exceeds the expectation of an unsophisticated read. There are a few jokes that fall flat, and a number of scenes where the elbow-nudging gets to be heavy-handed, but it’s more fun to lean into the book’s eye-rolling style than shy away.
Beyond the novel’s obvious humor, the thoroughness with which this universe is created makes it a pleasure to read, while the relationship between Captain Space Hardcore and Funkworthy drives the story through its weaker moments, although they are few and far between. Ronson never takes his writing or this world too seriously, which makes the reading quick, but some of the more subtle humor does deserve a slower perusal to get the full nuance of each comedic moment. Ronson could have slowed down the pace to ensure each nuance of his humor is understood before moving onto the next, but it’s a testament to his writing style that the book could be read in one quick jaunt, or savored over time.
Any comedy of this sort will have its stronger and weaker comedic touches, but comedy is also very subjective, so what works for one reader might not work for another. On balance, The Court of Crust Killings is a genuinely funny read with a fun science fiction story at its core that even has its share of philosophical undertones and social commentary. Whatever your expectations of a comic sci-fi saga may be, your experience of reading this book will be completely different.
All told, Ronson has created an unforgettable pair of heroes bouncing around a universe you will want to revisit immediately in this highly entertaining series.
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