Dark Overlord Press, 2009
First Line: Micovi’s three tiny moons hung in the evening sky like pitted purple grapes. (Technically, that’s the second line).
Having listened to both Infected and Contagious on audio you’d think I’d have noticed Sigler’s football fandom in the person of Perry Dawsey. Obviously that wasn’t the case and the appearance of The Rookie, if you’ll pardon the mixed sports reference, came out of left field. A Blood Bowl type D&D Encounter designed by ChattyDM and the appearance of new Blood Bowl video game this last year certainly had my attention primed for sci-fi/football mashups. Indeed, despite having never played a game it was Blood Bowl I first thought of when reading the synopsis of The Rookie with some vague memories of Mutant League Football worked in for good measure.
The Rookie takes place in a universe where the dominant alien species has “pacified” the various other races of the galaxy by letting them take out their aggressive tendencies through playing football. The Galactic Football League is divided into 3 “tiers” Tier 3 being the small time bush league, Tier 2 being the minors, and Tier 1 being the big show. The book follows the rising star of the titular rookie, quarterback Quentin Barnes. Barnes, in the opening act is recruited by the Ionith Krakens a tier 2 team. There are some serious hitches to this seeming turn of good fortune as Barnes suffers from a vicious brew of arrogance and racism ingrained by his hardscrabble upbringing in the mines of a close-minded human supremest world.
Fantastic alien creatures. Personal human drama. Football heroics. If any of these sound interesting to you then you should head out and pick up a copy of The Rookie. Everyone else? Read on…
I should have prefaced this review by stating that I’m not a football fan. In truth I’m not really a fan of any organized sport. Sports is never something that really clicked for me and the investment in time and energy it takes to be a fan I’d rather direct elsewhere. That doesn’t mean I can’t get drawn into the sports drama. I think the Major League films (well the first two anyway) are hilarious. I love The Mighty Ducks. I’ve seen Remember the Times countless times. I kind of liked Tin Cup. I even enjoyed the early football rom-com Leatherheads. Yet, I still can’t find the patience to sit down and watch an entire game/match/whatever of any sport.
So, I can’t comment on the technical aspects of Sigler’s football writing. Obviously some realism has to be abandoned to account for the sci-fi aspects of the players and worlds on which the games occur but how Sigler’s writing compares to actual gameplay. From the perspective of a neophyte, who knows next to nothing about the technical aspects of football, I never really felt lost during the novel and there is typically enough going on outside of pure football action that I never felt like I was left in the dark. Leaving the football “crunch” aside I had a hell of a good time following Quentin’s growth from backwater bumpkin the galactic football player. Sigler injected a strong element of organized crime into his world that provides additional tension over and above the on and off field action.
Sigler also manages to craft a marvelous well-realized world. The first printing of The Rookie includes some color pages in the center of the book that replicate a Galactic League magazine. It provides a basic primer on the races of the league, some of the teams, and some of the players. It also has an interview with several of the characters. Throughout the course of the book we get an introduction to the history of the galaxy and some of the races. I was particularly fond of the Sklorno who have turned football into a form of religion. The novel is also rife with scores and statistics that appear at the end of each game. The appendix even includes a timeline which, if you’re a Sigler fan, might provide a small surprise and a nice tip of the hat.
Big action set in wondrous locations with a galactic backrop disguises a rather down-to-earth tale of overcoming one’s weakness’ in order to achieve greatness. The Rookie isn’t necessarily a new story but an old one told with a fresh voice and an invigorating energy that is one hundred percent infectious. If you’ve yet to join the “Cult of Siglerism” then I can think of few better places to start then The Rookie. I’ll definitely be back on board for The Starter later next year in the mean time keep an eye for a Ancestor coming in June 2010.
For any introduction to the world of The Rookie be sure to check out the Galactic Football League website.