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Literature / Space Captain Smith

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"A ship!" Smith sprang up. "That's excellent! Will there be action, and danger?"
"There'll be hippies. Will that do?"
"Sir, I'll take the risk."
Isambard and Mr. Kahn, "Space Captain Smith"

Isambard Smith is the square-jawed, courageous and somewhat dim new commander of the clapped out, battle damaged light freighter John Pym, destined to take on the alien threat because nobody else is available. Together with his bold crew- a skull collecting alien lunatic and an android pilot who is actually an escaped sex toy (and her pet hamster: Gerald)- he must collect new-age herbalist Rhianna Mitchell from the laid back New Francisco orbiter and bring her back to safety in the British Space Empire. Straightforward enough- except the Ghast want her too. If he is to get back to Blighty alive, Smith must defeat void sharks, a universe-weary android assassin and John Gilead, psychopathic naval officer from the fanatically religious Republic of New Eden before facing his greatest enemy: a ruthless alien warlord with a very large behind...

Space Captain Smith (The chronicles of Isambard Smith Vol. 1) is the debut novel of English author Toby Frost, and is a science-fiction comedy. It has been followed by five sequels- God Emperor of Didcot, Wrath of the Lemming Men, A Game of Battleships and End of Empires before ending the series with Pincers of Death.

There are also three short stories (all Christmas Episodes) When Slay Bells Ring, The Celery an the Ivy and A Fairytale of New Dorchester, which are available as free downloads from the Space Captain Smith website. The first contains a significant (in some eyes) spoiler for God Emperor of Didcot.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Accidental Hero: On a planet that was under threat from the lemming men, Carveth was shouting about not running any more even if it means she was personally fight every lemming in the universe. This gets filmed by a war reporter and went viral, leading the public to view her as the face of the resistance and dubbing her Battle Girl. The truth was that Carveth was just ranting about not wanting to do any more sprints as she's a couch potato.
  • Alien Invasion: The British Space Empire is under threat from the Ghasts and lemming men.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Through contact with humans, the aliens have learned to speak English.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Carveth has an almost child-like obsession with ponies. This may be excused by the fact that she's only two years old.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Vorl elected to go into isolation, but before they did so they left their location with a cult of Morris Dancers.
  • Ancient Tradition: Suruk's slaying and head collecting.
  • An Arm and a Leg: When the evil Gilead is shot by Smith, the doctors could only save his head and his bladder.
  • Arch-Enemy: Number 462 and Smith are each others, though 462 understandably hates Smith more than Smith dislikes 462. For 462, every time he encounters Smith, he ends up getting more and more maimed. While for Smith, any time there's a threat to the British Space Empire, it's inevitable that 462 has a hand in it.
  • Artificial Human Pollyanna R Carveth, the sexbot on the run. Prefers the term "Person of Artificial Heritage".
  • Artificial Limbs: Smith needs one of these after Number 8 bites off his right arm. He gets a proper new one grown for him, though
  • The Battlestar: Dreadnoughts are gigantic battleships with railgun cannons and antimatter torpedoes. They also house a contingent of Hellfire aero-space fighters.
  • Battle Trophy: After killing planetary crimeboss Corveau, Smith takes the guy's Civiliser (a massive revolver that shoots .45 hypervelocity rounds). This nicely supplements the heroes' somewhat meager arsenal.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The benign alien races like equii and the vorl are respectively cute blue ponies and nicely-proportional gas clouds, in contrast the evil aliens like the Ghasts and lemming-men get hit with the ugly stick. The Ghasts are gigantic ants with heads that look like skulls, while the lemming-men could have been cute but instead are fat and battle-scarred and have a look of insane fury, with leaders of both races even uglier than the norm. While the Morlocks are on the side of good, they're also savage head-hunters and so they're noseless green aliens. Shows up even with the humans, as the Edenites' leader is a wrinkled old man who's mostly bionic and even the handsome Gilead loses a good chunk of his looks. It's noted that Number 8 is exceptional for a Ghast because he's a good-looking ant creature.
  • Berserk Button: The normally cowardly Carveth will lose it, if anyone calls her fat. As will taking the last cookie. But her biggest trigger by far, is to attempt to harm ponies as the lemming-men find out.
  • Blood Sport: The crew gets captured by the Criminarch's forces and are forced to play a violent rugby-like game.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Smith's return to New Luton with Wainscott's team and the Vorl.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Morlocks have their excretory and digestive system in their heads as well as a spare liver, Morlocks also produce spawn by spitting out a sludge of gunk that grow into froglike creatures. The Vorl are gaseous beings but capable of impregnating humans.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Suruk in general, and the heads he keeps as trophies on his mantle.
  • The Bridge: Subverted- the John Pym barely has room for a two-seat cockpit.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Subverted. In Wrath Of The Lemming Men, Smith punches Number 8, who eats his arm. Turns out that Smith had a live grenade in that hand.
  • The Captain: Smith, obviously
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Although distances are never stated, it is made clear that travel between star systems takes only hours at best, but sometimes stretched into days.
  • Casual Kink: After many stoned conversations with Rhianna, Carveth tells Smith that he should 'watch his arse around a woman like her'. In context, the implications are...interesting.
  • Characterization Marches On: Carveth as a burping, farty pants gets dropped by the 3rd book and her sex-fiend nature gets downplayed significantly. Instead the writer plays up her love of alcohol, her cowardness goes into critical mass and she becomes far more childish with her love of ponies and ice cream.
  • Cool Starship: Subverted - the John Pym is very old and very battered, held together with duct tape and string, but she is also one of the fastest starships in the known galaxy - in a straight line - thanks to a massive non standard engine. Not so good at cornering though. Played straight with the Illustrious which is a brand new super-super dreadnought and the largest thing ever built. It's so large that it houses factories inside to build and supply a warbot army. The Illustrious also has enough firepower to beat a small enemy fleet by itself despite being ambushed.
  • Copycat Cover: It's very similar to the covers of the Flashman novels.
  • Cruel Mercy: After finding cyborg John Gilead, disabled by an emp blast, Suruk takes Gilead's still-living head but leaves him alive to bring to trial. This isn't such a mercy as Suruk keeps Gilead in his litter box and spits out fecal pellets on him.
  • Darker and Edgier: While still retaining its trademark humour, "End of Empires" is quite eye-opening in how grim things get as its set in the middle of a last-ditch onslaught by the lemming-men on a jungle Death World. The middle third of the book even has its own version of Apocalypse Now.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After 4 years of war, the British Space Empire finally invades the Ghast homeworld and arrest No.1, the Smith's crew and the Deepspace Operations Group survive with no casualties and plans are under way to start a new life in a more peaceful galaxy.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Suruk the slayer, who's extremely proud of his headhunting and is obsessed with getting more skulls to polish, even if the skulls belong to British Space Empire agents.
  • Enemy Mine: In the final book, Number 462 opts to work with Smith to take down Number 1
  • Gasshole: Made to be occasionally crude as part of the fetishized programming suite hardwired into her, Carveth is going to burp or fart every so often per book.
  • Granola Girl: Rhianna Mitchell, although her home world New Francisco is a whole planet of these.
  • Hand Cannon: Humans don't do man-portable energy weapons much (this changes in later books as the war intensifies). Instead they use oversized guns such as Smith's Civiliser that he took from Corveau and Dreckitt's Assasinator, which was described as having barrel big enough to rent as living space. The Edenite top leader saw Smith's Civiliser and said that Smith's gun is rather tiny compared to what the Edenites usually carry.
  • Hartman Hips: Number 462 of the Ghasts has a really big bottom (well...462 is a giant antman), this is something that Smith notices and taunts him about.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Ghast use bio-ships with organic plasma disruptors, while humanity is still stuck with using big guns that wouldn't seem out of place today. It was the Ghast that provided the technology to separate Rhianna's Vorl aspect from her human self.
  • Improvised Weapon: Suruk knocks out some mercenaries threatening Carveth, with a foot-long, black plastic club that's rounded at the top and gently vibrates to give his hand a nice massage. Carveth quickly takes back her vibrator.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The Ghast are ant people. The Kaldathrians are dung beetle people.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Martians from H.G Well's War of the Worlds exist in this world, however they prefer to call themselves Aresians. Other than that, they are as destructive and weak to illness as they were in Well's novel.
  • It Was a Gift: After Smith and crew liberate Paradis from Corveau, Francois tells Smith to keep the .308 Morgan Plainsman rifle that he lent Smith. With Corveau gone, Francois no longer needs a gun like that and feels Smith will make better use of it. For her 4th birthday, Carveth is given a full suit of battle armor which does her courage a world of good.
  • It's Personal: Why would 462 turn on Number 1 and join forces with his Arch-Enemy Smith? Number 1 had 462's Ant Dog killed.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: In fitting with the Victorian atmosphere, the British Space Empire initially sticks to large-bore firearms that wouldn't be out of place in the 20th-21st century. These are initially more than enough for most threats, with energy weapons being mostly for heavy support. Additionally while lasers and plasma guns are very powerful, it's rail guns that provide the heaviest punch for tanks and capital ships
  • Living Ship: The Ghast ships seem to be made of living tissue, but are not apparently sentient. They are chock-full of Squick, though; the airlocks are sphincters. Complete with sucking noises!
  • Magikarp Power: The Khadagan Monks are a race of harmless mystics that are seen as a joke except for their ties to the mighty space whales. Later a close up of an incoming space whale shows the truth. Space whales are almost centauroid creatures that have a Khadagan Monk growing off of the top and manning a gun turret. It turns out that Khadagan Monks are the young of the species and the space whales are the adults.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The British Space Empire uses railguns for capital ships and tanks.
  • Man in the Machine: After being reduced to a head and a bladder, Gilead had been placed in a robot body, making him a near full-body cyborg. But because of issues such as ghost sensations (including trying to scratch an itch in a non-existent crotch), Gilead is not a happy camper and really wants to make Smith and friends suffer.
  • Ms Fan Service: Averted with Carveth. When Smith found out that Carveth was made as a custom-built sexbot, he was surprised given that she looks like a tiny woman of 28 who's only pretty in a plain way. Carveth then explains the reason why she's not a busty goddess is that her owner is an extremely nasty pervert with very specific fetishes, and her design specs came from a questionaire he filled out.
  • More Dakka: Smith fends off three marauding void sharks with a somewhat futuristic Maxim machine gun that has 999 rounds in a single magazine. The Maxim was also used to beat back a Ghast boarding party. Once Smith gets his Morgan Plainsman rifle, Carveth takes up the Maxim and goes wild with it (later on the Maxim mysteriously disappears from the series until the last books and Carveth gets stuck with a shotgun until then). For the bad guys side, the Edenites that wear powered armour also carry gatling guns as a standard weapon.
  • No-Sell: Tea with milk, is such an incredible drink that it enabled Smith to withstand an concerted mental attack from a group of psychic children. Powered by tea, Smith's moral fiber shot through the roof and shut down the voices in his head.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: As its name suggests, the Democratic Republic of New Eden is a hellish theocratic tyranny.
    • The Greater Galactic Happiness, Friendship and Co-operation Collective is run by demented sadistic lemming men intent on conquest.
  • Power-Up Food: Why is the British Space Empire invincible? It's because of tea with a spot of milk in it. Near the beginning of Book 2, the analytical simulant mentions that tea raises moral fiber. And moral fiber is 30% more effective at raising fighting prowess than numerical superiority, good genes, fanaticism and etc. The Ghasts try to power themselves up with it, but fail despite their numerous experiments (including an attempt to mate with tea bags).
  • Powered Armor: The Edenites have very advanced tech, and in a shoutout to Starship Troopers, they attack the Imperials with powered armour that is capable of tremendous leaps. Unfortunately their armour is vulnerable to emp and Smith's rifle can shoot through bank vaults.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Morlocks. Suruk see the missions as holidays and opportunities to add to his collection of skulls. He never seems to use guns preferring to use his many blades and ancestral spear. Subverted with Morlock speech. In English they sound like the typical Proud Warrior Race Guy, but in Asur'ah they are, like, way more expressive, y'know?
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Morlocks practically scream out that they're Orcs. They are large, strong and green (but skinny), they have big tusks (though with mandibles) and like collecting skulls, and in a shoutout to Warhammer 40,000, they believe that painting a ship red makes it goes faster.
  • Ramming Always Works - both the Morlocks and the Lemming-men favour this, the former because of their desire to board and engage in hand-to-hand fighting; the latter because of their suicidal tendencies - and their ships are constructed appropriately.
  • Religion of Evil: The Edenites took the worst bits of various religions and deliberately rolled them up with fascism to become a fun-hating, misogynistic cult that worships the Great Annihilator (though they are oddly not too racist, given their allying with the Ghast and Lemming men). The lemming-men worship a war god and their religion plays heavily in encouraging their suicidal onslaughts.
  • Retro Universe / Schizo Tech / Days of Future Past : But it's all obviously Played for Laughs.
  • Robot Girl Carveth (though technically she's wholly organic, in the flesh versus steel sense of the word - Rhianna is wholly organic in a more philosophical sense.
  • Robot Soldier: The Warbots are military A.I. robots in a heavily armoured shell and carrying autocannons and missile launcers. They become more prominent in the last book.
  • Sexbot: Carveth is a custom-built sex toy. As such she's hardwired to occasionally lapse into talking innuendo and be crude.
  • Shout-Out - liberally sprinkled through all three novels, calling everything from Enid Blyton to War of the Worlds, the Chipmunks to Japanese whaling practices (the space whales "ate the Japanese fleet and passed it off as research"), My Little Pony and even the Teddy Bears' Picnic.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Smith has eyes only for Rhianna. All other women are something of a turn-off for him and he's got no interest in dudes.
  • Space Opera
  • Space Is an Ocean: With giant sharks in it, too.
  • Steampunk: The British Space Empire took a huge conscious reversion, as a nod to their industrial empire in the 1800s they've gone back to smokestacks and boilers. When London is introduced, chimneys and chimney sweeps have made a come-back. Even their gigantic war robots get chimneys! The Empire has also reverted back to the puritanical attitude of the Victorian era, with attitudes towards sexuality being non-existant.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The British Space Empire is a virtual stereotype of Victorian England in space, and as such the British (including Smith) value not showing much emotion other than the occasional righteous outrage.
  • Super-Soldier: The Edenites tried to make a batch of them using technology traded from the Ghast. Yeah the end result were 8-feet tall mountains of muscles, unfortunately these "ogres" were dumb as they were strong.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: Suruk is already an amazing warrior, but he later learns techniques from an Old Master, that allowed him to put his hand through a lemming-man's armour and tear out his still beating heart. He also killed another lemming-man by channeling his energies into the lemming-man's body and inducing a heart attack. After that Suruk's martial arts never shows up again.
  • Teens Are Monsters: A shoutout to Clockwork Orange, the crew end up on planet Drogon - a shithole of a world where teenage gangs go around in bowler hats, speaking a Russian/English hybrid, drinking narcotic laced milk and violently assaulting people. Unfortunately for one gang, they decided to attack Smith and Suruk. Not all of the gang died quickly as the heroes needed info.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Ghast allies, the Edenites and the Criminarch both share a "women belong in the kitchen" mentality and both groups's leaders are synthetically large, musclebound freaks.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: The Vorl, C'neth is initially horrified to find out that the dirty, joss-reeking hippie in front of him, is his daughter. He gets better and later is actually taken with the idea that his daughter is a "solid".
  • The Adventure Continues: Smith and friends will no longer be fighting, but to stave off boredom and find new adventures that appeals to everyone, they'll be joining a wildlife conservation group to find endangered animals all over the galaxy.
  • The Bus Came Back: After disappearing for a couple of books, Carveth takes up the Maxim again for the final book.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The reason why the British Space Empire does so well against the Ghast and lemming-men. The average Ghast trooper has evolved to have a brain the size of a walnut, while the lemming-men have gone stupid from too much fanaticism and believing their own propaganda. This makes both easy to trick, the crew once used the pet hamster to trick a battalion of lemming-men to go to an empty shed that had a large gas container in it. Cue ensuing boom.
  • Touched by Vorlons - Rhianna's mother got bonked by the Vorl, C'neth. Some of the Vorl's abilities turn out to be hereditary...
  • Weapon-Based Characterization: Victorian-esque hero Smith has his .308 Morgan Plainsman (the book quickly just refers to it as a rifle to keep it short) and his Civiliser, combat amateur Carveth used to lug a Maxim cannon but this gets dropped for a shotgun as her mainstay - she returns to using the Maxim in the last book, the old-school warrior, Suruk has his spear and Susan, The Lancer, of the Special Operations team is never without her beam-gun, a support weapon.
  • We Will Use Lasers in the Future: The British Space Empire has a fondness for big firearms, but in the books as the war intensifies even their usual Hand Cannon aren't enough firepower so the British Space Empire issue plasma and laser weapons in increasingly large numbers.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The series ends with an epilogue where Number 462 is being held in a prison colony where he's being rehabilitated and integrated along with all the other surviving enemies.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Smith. Admittedly his idealism is based around how great warfare is, but it's idealism nonetheless.
    • Given the relatively benign impact of the British Space Empire compared to what you get at the hands of the Ghasts, New Eden and the Lemming Men, it's hard for him not to be idealistic about it.
  • With This Herring: For such an important mission, Captain Smith was given an unarmed rustbucket of a ship and a couple of guns in a locker (a Maxim machine gun which acts like the smartgun from Aliens, a shotgun and a service revolver).