Today, we flip open Path to Villainy, by S. L. Rowland, and Bob’s Saucer Repair, by Jerry Boyd.
Witt was an NPC kobold in a not-quite Dungeons and Dragons game world. Each day was the same. Wake up, serve the local adventurers, dodge all the kicks coming his way, and forget it all before the next day. But today was different. Today, Witt remembered the countless tortures dealt to him and his friends. Today, Witt swore revenge. Today, Witt starts down the path to villainy.
Path of Villainy is what it says it is, the fall of Witt from the admirable goals of fighting against murderhobo adventurers and elevating kobolds from their low station into the naked chase for power. It’s surprising that Path of Villainy plays the fall so straight. You won’t find the usual tropes of misunderstood or unloved villains. Instead, evil’s allure is subtle, but utterly destructive. Freedom for his people turns into servitude to dragons. Friends and family are sacrificed to machinations and dragons. The sympathetic becomes monstrous. All for just a little more power. But while Witt’s fall is complete, Path of Villainy remains fairly light-hearted and refuses to indulge in the cruelty that so often characterizes fantasy revenge tales.
When a flying sauce crashes into a Missouri barn, Bob finds two challenges before him. One, how to fix the hole in the saucer’s radiator, and, two, how to keep the humanoid stunner now known as Nikki around longer. After examining Bob’s handiwork with a welder and in converting Earth machinery into alien plumbing, Nikki has an idea: Bob’s Saucer Repair. And as the owner of the sole authorized one-stop saucer repair and alien medical station in the Solar System, Bob sees it all. Alien grad students, space pirates, nosy interstellar reporters, and even time-travelling lawmen. All are helped on their way with a little Ozark ingenuity and bowl of piping hot chili.
With a name like Bob’s Saucer Repair, I expected a silly redneck version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. What I got instead was a banter-heavy can-do Mr. Fixit story that plays the idea of a redneck saucer repair shop seriously. The result is something very much like The Lawdog Files, but more Ozarks than Texas. The banter is clever and natural, but does get a bit thick and repetitive. Also, the dialogue pushes the story forward instead of narration or exposition. Imagine your crazy uncle telling stories at the supper table while his hot alien wife is driving the family flying saucer to the grocery store for dessert. And as ridiculous as it might get, Bob’s Saucer Repair is utterly sincere in playing the story straight, without the thick meta-storytelling or irony of contemporary humorous science fiction. All in all, Bob’s Saucer Repair is a cute read, and a nice change from the acres of milSF campaigns and gamer fantasies.