Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Blackskull's Captive by Tom Doolan

Blackskull's Captive
Tom Doolan
Kindle ebook format, 0.99

If this short story, the first publication by Tom Doolan, is any indication of what we can expect from him, then he's someone you will want to add to your list of must-read authors.

"Blackskull's Captive" is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining blend of fantasy, space opera, and old fashioned pirate adventure.  Written in part as an homage to Treasure Island, it's the story of Jack Munro, an orphan who is captured by Orcs and forced into being the cabin boy of the dreaded Captain Blackskull. 

Now Orcs in space (or Orccss innn Spaaacce! - sorry, I couldn't resist) may sound at first glance like it won't work, but I assure you it does.  Part of the reason is the voice.  The story has the tone of a novel or journal from the 1700s or 1800s.  The only difference is that this one is readable, quite readable.  I'm sure being a history major helped as far as the style is concerned, but Doolan has crafted a character who is both courageous and resourceful, yet not without flaws, which makes him all the more engaging.  Young Jack Munro learns from his mistakes and grows, turning from frightened victim to hero.  Doolan manages to stuff more character development into a few pages than some epic fantasies do in five times the number of pages.

The thing I found intriguing, and my geek is showing here, is that the universe is a blend of the 17th century and the 21st.  The costuming, for lack of a better word, is out of Treasure Island, while the science (with the exception of one mention of the aether) is out of Stephen Hawking.  Artificial gravity and plasma guns alongside cutlasses and sailing ships in outer space.  I want to know more about how this universe works.  Aether and super science?  Definitely cool.

Fortunately I'll get the chance.  Doolan said on his blog when he announced the story that he's completed one sequel and is working on a second.  I had a blast reading this story.  Doolan's prose pulled me into the story, and the unique setting and well realized characters made me want to stay.

As is my custom when reviewing indie published works, a few words on the production values.  The cover art is a perfect fit for the story.  There were no typos or formatting problems.  This was what an ebook should be like.  Why can't New York figure that out?

This little ebook is a great buy.  Check it out.


  1. Wow! Thanks for the generous review. I'm humbled, and genuinely glad people are enjoying the story.

    A couple of points to clarify. The second story is a WIP, as of right now. Third is just a germ of an idea. :)

    As for the setting, I have to admit that I borrowed heavily from Disney's Treasure Planet (almost to the point of plagiarism) for the look and feel. But, I tried to make it my own with the details.

    Again, I'm glad people are enjoying it. That is, after all, why I really write. :)

  2. You're welcome, Tom. I stand corrected on the state of the sequels. Not being familiar with Treasure Planet, I didn't make the connection there. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing more of this world.

  3. Treasure planet was pretty darn cool, and so is Tom's story!