Friday, January 04, 2008

REVIEW: 'To Catch A Thief' by Keith Sheffield

TITLE: To Catch A Thief
AUTHOR: Keith Sheffield
PRICE: $9.53 (paperback) $3.63 (e-book)
GENRE: Science Fiction
ISBN: None
PUBLISHER: Fanfaron Press

While surfing on, or rather, conducting marketing research (yeah, that's the ticket!), I stumbled across Keith Sheffield’s first book, To Catch A Thief. It’s a short work, only 108 pages, and labeled as Book One of the Ockham’s Razor series. Keith was offering free downloads for a week, and, after a quick glance at his cover and first chapter suggested that the work wouldn’t suck, I downloaded it.

To Catch A Thief is the story of Ockham, an ex-military type who retired and invested his pension in buying the Razor, a small interstellar cargo ship. In chapter 1, we learn that he’s struggling financially, and so he takes a meeting on the backwater world of Barrold, hoping to get a cargo so his ship doesn’t get hocked for back dock fees. Perhaps needless to say, things don’t go according to plan, which makes for an entertaining read.

Sheffield is a pretty good writer, and he tells an entertaining story. I have to admit I have a bias to like this story. Sheffield, like myself, is tired of the current trend in science fiction, which is to produce 150,000 word doorstops labeled as “Book One of Ten.” Typically, it seems that if you haven’t read the first couple of books, don’t bother with the later in the series, as you’ll be lost.

Although Sheffield does in fact intend to continue his work, he’s very deliberately keeping each individual work both short and self-contained, so one can, in theory, enter the series wherever you choose. Obviously, the proof of the pudding will be with Book Two, but so far, I like his concept.

Having said that, the book, although entertaining, is not without problems. The writing is clear, and the action is both sufficient and logical, but I find Ockham in particular a bit too trusting. He has as first mate on his ship one Mistra Onsoon. Ockham assumes that she’s a human female, even though he’s never seen her face nor does he know what world she’s from. Ockham also agrees to do some questionable deeds for out-and-out crooks with little compunction, even after he learns that Mistra has great financial resources.

Also, the setup and the world bear more then a passing resemblance to the “Firefly” universe, of the short-lived TV series fame. The author states that “Firefly” bears more then a passing resemblance to the Travelers role-playing game; having never played that game, I’ll take his word for it.

But these are quibbles. The story is entertaining and reasonably-well told, and presented (at least in e-book form) in a professional manner, both in terms of proofreading and layout. I have to say that I enjoyed To Catch A Thief, and look forward to seeing more from this author.

RATING: 8/10

Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.


KS said...

Hi. Thanks for the review. I think you nailed it :-)

Hopefully, the next book in the series, Cowards of Us All, will be out in the next 2 to 3 months.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome!

Chris Gerrib