Expert Assistance

Rated 3.50/5 based on 2 reviews
To get out of debt, spacer Jake Bonner takes on two odd jobs. The first, chauffeur pop star Evvie Martini on her tour; the second, helping Daniel and Clarissa Rosen overthrow their planet’s tyrannical ruler. Unfortunately for Jake, Evvie finds out about his second assignment and, hoping to advance her career, invites herself to the revolution. More

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About Robert Collins

I'm the author of three published SF novels: Expert Assistance, Lisa's Way, and Monitor. I'm also the author of the coming of age novel True Friends, and the fantasy novel Cassia. I have several short story collections available.. I've written several books on Kansas history.

In addition to books, I've sold stories to periodicals such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine; Tales of the Talisman; Golden Visions; and Sorcerous Signals.

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Reviews

Review by: Keryl Raist on May 05, 2011 :
Sit back and imagine, if you will, a story where Lazarus Long, Hannah Montanna, and Marvin the Paranoid Android on prozac get together to liberate a planet. Got that image in your head? Sounds like fun doesn't it? Yep. Reading it was fun, too.

Jake, the main character is something of a cross between Han Solo and Lazarus Long. Like Han he's in financial trouble. Like Lazarus he seems to have seen and done everything at least once. And like both of them he exudes a sense of fond grouchiness at the naive-cute-and-fuzzy-puppy types that keep tripping through his life.

Like Lazarus, Jake has a sentient computer/spaceship with a brain the size of a planet. This one is not depressed, but does seem to have a dry sense of humor and irony sensors on overdrive. Odin, in addition to knowing basically everything that ever was recorded, also has teleporter technology, can build almost anything, and crack basically any code. As you can imagine, Odin is a very good friend to have. Odin was built as a military vessel. He became sentient and decided he did not want to be a warship. Jake found him floating abandoned in the middle of space, probably bought him some fuel, and the two have been together since.

And now, looking for some fast money, Jake has a new job. Two new jobs really. One is shuttling Evvie Martini (Hannah Montanna, down to her dyed hair) from gig to gig. The other is helping the people of Antioch Two throw off Sordius Maxi, the owner of their planet.

Of course, eventually Evvie finds out about the revolution, gets involved, and a cute little tale that can be described as "Yay Liberty!" ensues. The story is more or less the fictional equivalent of kettle corn. It's sweet, crunchy, yummy, but not exactly nutritious.

Here's why. In the past I've mentioned something called power balance. So, let's talk a little more about plot and power balance. For a plot to work, the good guys and the bad guys need a shot at winning. It can be a one in a million shot, that's good reading, too. But unless you want to study some sort of human emotion, (ie lit fic) the guys on one side can't so completely overpower the guys on the other to the point where the guys on the other have absolutely no shot at winning. Sure the struggle of David V. Goliath is good reading, but the struggle between Goliath and the quadriplegic toddler isn't. The toddler has no chance at all.

Maxi never had a shot. Odin isn't so much taking a gun to a knife fight as taking a tank and making sure that Omniscient God Almighty is driving it. Maxi was so far out gunned by that computer it wasn't funny. And to throw the power balance off even further, Maxi is a lot more like Fredo Corleone than Michael.

There's no tension to this plot, because there's no real danger. There's no chance the revolution won't work. There's no possibility of any of the main characters being in any danger. Because of that, none of the main characters experience any real change. And why would they? Nothing was really risked. Evvie is just a childish at the beginning of the revolution as she is in the end. The rebels are just as clueless; they never had to learn anything. Odin, well, he's already the pinnacle of intellectual evolution, so there was nowhere for him to go. Jake has no deeper understanding of anything because he knew it all to begin with.

If you'll forgive the comparison, this is not Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It's not even close.

When discussing revolution it's hard to avoid politics. This was a fairly innocuous screed against commercialism, without being insulting or annoying. I'm about as far off on my side of the political spectrum as it's possible to get, and I didn't find the political content too bothersome. I doubt anyone else who can still claim to be somewhere on the rational scale would either.

So, if you want a cute and safe read, an adventure where you know everyone comes home just peachy and the good guys are guaranteed to win, this one's for you.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Victor Randel on March 31, 2011 :
A Fast Fun Read. Kept me turning pages all night.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

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