For the past four years or so, I have gone on a trip with my father, his father, and a group of my grandfather’s former co-workers to Hays, Kansas in December. While this yearly get-together is labeled a “pheasant hunting trip”, it truly is a lot more than that. It’s a chance for my grandpa to catch up with a lot of his good friends from work, who are all a bunch of goofballs that playfully torment him (and the rest of the Suppes clan) to no end. It’s a time to get some fresh air and take in the scenery whilst shooting at birds. Most importantly, though, it’s a time to embrace the three qualities that define a man’s existence: Family, friends, and being a man.
Does this have anything to do with The Rookie, a science fiction and sports drama novel by Scott Sigler? A little bit, as those three qualities are key to all of the people in the book, especially the main character. But I guess the real reason I’m talking about my family matters is because I spent every second, and by every second I mean every motherf*cking second not spent hanging out with the hunting party reading The Rookie on my brand-spanking new Kindle. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that I got hooked on yet another work by Scott Sigler (I also got cocaine-like addictions while reading Infected, Contagious, and Ancestor), but it simply amazes me that I constantly get rock solid support for my Sigler mancrush in the form of his work.
Click the jump to get the rest of this review, and lots of reasons to grab this book.
The basic synopsis for The Rookie is essentially a cross between Any Given Sunday and Starship Troopers. Some 600 plus years into the future, a great number of planetary systems have been discovered, resulting in a lot of fights between different forms of intelligent life. After around four intergalactic wars, a race of winged beings call Creterakians take supreme control of the galaxy, and while their rule is absolute, it leads to relative peace in the galaxy. A little while after the takeover, a new football league becomes established between all of the planets, and the other species immediately jump in with the humans, creating a revamped game with receivers that run faster and jump higher, linebackers that hit harder, and linemen that can weigh in the tons.
Enter Quentin Barnes, a sensational quarterback (Quentin Barnes. Quarterback. QB. Get it?!) from the Purist Nations, a group of planets seceded from the rest of the galaxy due to their radical religious beliefs. After lighting up his Tier Three competition, Barnes is picked up by the Ionath Krakens, a Tier Two team that hopes the youngster will lead Ionath back to Tier One (the best in the GFL) and eventually a Galaxy Bowl win. The book follows Quentin’s transformation from an arrogant and innately racist jerk into a true leader on the football field.
To start off my long list of kudos for this book, let me say that Sigler did a bang-up job not only with the GFL itself, but the entire world (no, galaxy) where the football takes place. Anyone could say “These are aliens, they play football now” and then make a silly movie out of it, but that sh*t doesn’t fly in the world of books. Sigler spends a great amount of time detailing the new planets, the new species, what they did to each other, and how they all factor into the new society and (obviously) the football games. In fact, there’s an entire timeline detailing the events that lead up to the GFL available to the reader. Needless to say, it’s equal parts meticulous and imaginative, and it’s all fantastic.Which leads us to the sci-fi football. Remember when I said Sigler’s sci-fi future was “meticulous and imaginative” (I would hope so, it was only a few sentences ago)? This applies to the football as well.
Football, for all of the loud and drunken fans, jackass athletes, and money-monger owners it produces, is a complex sport. Even if there are some players out there that can’t spell ‘complex’, football has a lot of intricacies involved in the hard hitting and flashy passes, and Sigler covers it all, and then some. Along with the obligatory football games and playoffs, the book devotes chapters to things like the Combine and practices, and has sub-plots involving point shaving, gambling, team owners that are also gang leaders, and plenty of other things to give the book some nice tension and action not on the field. What’s more is that the games themselves include a lot of bonuses and add-ons that would please any football fan, including box scores, weekly league round-ups, snippets from newspaper articles, sports talk shows, and TV broadcasts complete with a humorously offensive color commentator. All of these things provide new perspectives and lots of meat to the already good narrative of the games. They all have little changes to complement the changes in the game (a prime example being the weekly round-ups, which replace the ‘Injury’ section with a ‘Deaths’ section).
There are a lot of characters to enjoy in The Rookie, and each of them have special quirks not only as a character, but as a species. From Don Pine, Quentin’s All-Pro mentor with some dark secrets, to John Tweedy, a clinically insane linebacker with a tattoo connected to his brain (which allows him to change it by thinking), Sigler’s football novel has no shortage of colorful characters.
With so much to praise, it was hard for me to find negative things to take note of, but there are a few of note. The only main problem with The Rookie is that the way the football season plays out is predictable. I found myself guessing things like wins, losses, interceptions, and deaths way before they actually happened, which is a common trend for any sports fiction. Outside of some normalities, there are a few typos littered in the book, specifically a lack of hyphens in a lot of final scores for games; I’m unsure if this had something to do with my downloading the book onto my Kindle.
Not everyone in the world is a fan of sports, and there are certainly more people following the pussy football (soccer) than the American football. Due to this, it can be assumed that it would probably be hard to get a non-football fan to read any book focusing on the sport. That said, The Rookie is much more than a bunch of football games with aliens written in book-form. There’s a lot more time spent focusing on Quentin’s development as a person and leader, the conflicts around a galaxy with a bloody past, and a lot of problems with gangs that are willing to kill entire football teams in order to win or make more money. In the end, The Rookie is just as deep as any other science fiction book of recent years. It’s just got a lot of bone-crushing football awesomeness thrown in there for good measure.
Final Grade: A