Erikson, who I know from his well-regarded grim and gritty fantasy work, turns out to be a very funny writer ..Show More »with an obvious deep love for science fiction. This book is both parody and pastiche, primarily of Star Trek (mostly Kirk-era Star Trek), but there are nods to other subgenres as well, from military SF to cyberpunk. To get full enjoyment out of this book, a passing knowledge of Star Trek is a must, and the more you know (and love) science fiction in all of its occasionally cheesy glory, the more fun you will have.
The story itself is surprisingly compelling, as are the characters, given that the book is essentially a parody. Erikson somehow manages to send up many genre conventions (the entire bridge crew beaming down to new planets, the tough space marines who shout "hooah" at every challenge, rogue AIs, and more) by having a main character who manages to be in on the joke, but in a more subtle way than the characters in Scalzi's similarly-themed Redshirts. Indeed, the captain is a complete bastard, albeit an endearing one, an over-the-top parody of Kirk that makes even Futurama's version seem well-behaved. Erikson puts his skills to work, ensuring that the plot remains engaging and the characters interesting, even as the story lurches from bizarre encounter to bizarre encounter. At the same time, he doesn't shy away from occasionally sharpening his parody to more biting satire at the expense of some more worn-out SF tropes.
I don't usually laugh at Audible books, but friends have repeatedly stopped me to ask why I was giggling with my headphones on in the street. This is not only due to Erikson's writing, but also the incredible, multi-voiced (and occasionally enhanced) MacLeod Andrews, who delivers the best comedy performance I have heard on Audible.
So, if you are a Star Trek fan, or at least are familiar with it, this is a no-brainer and probably the funniest science fiction since Hitchhiker's Guide. If you aren't as familiar with the conventions of the genre, or have never seen any Star Trek outside of the J J Abrams reboots, I have a feeling that a lot of the humor would pass you by. For the right kind of listener, however, this is pure gold.