May the farce be with you: John Scalzi brings the funny to sci-fi in new book

Credit: Chris West

Credit: Chris West

John Scalzi has made a career for himself as a top-selling writer of science fiction. He is probably the best known author living in SW Ohio. He toils away in the village of Bradford near the Darke County line.

His latest effort, “Starter Villain,” was inspired in part by super villains in James Bond stories, you know the sort, evil overlords with too much money and malevolent intent. As “Starter Villain” opens we meet Charlie, our protagonist. Charlie is just another lovable loser. He’s divorced, eking out a living as a substitute teacher. As the story begins he’s watching the news with the only companion who is willing to put up with him, his cat Hera.

Hera showed up as a stray. Her presence in the story fulfills the first suspicion one might have had about this novel. There’s a cat photo on the cover; it is definitely a story cat lovers will savor. Cats really have supernatural powers.

So Charlie is watching the news when he hears a report about the death of this man who was a billionaire. He was Charlie’s uncle; they were not close. In fact Charlie had zero contact with his uncle except for that time Charlie got married and his uncle sent the formerly happy couple a gift.

Not too long after that Charlie is contacted about a legacy that his uncle had left him. A woman named Morrison shows up; she was apparently his late uncle’s personal assistant. She informs him that he’ll need to do some things in order to receive his inheritance.

The next thing we know Charlie is on an island in the Caribbean with Morrison. He has brought along his two cats. I know, he only had the one cat, well as most cat lovers understand, cats find us. The second cat just showed up — they do that — Charlie adopted it. Cats are smart that way; they know which humans to pick.

Now the story starts getting really wild and scientifically fictional. Charlie meets all these super rich guys who have come to hold a meeting of their nefarious top secret group that is trying to rule the world. These guys are used to getting everything they desire and they want Charlie to kowtow to them. Immediately.

As Charlie tries to negotiate with these scary billionaires he feels like he is gaining a better understanding of what his late uncle was all about and he’s also learning quite quickly how to take care of himself while resisting the efforts of this group of nasty plutocrats who hope to dominate him and get their greedy mitts on his uncle’s billions.

The cats are doing phenomenal things throughout the story. There is some violence here, but it is somewhat silly if you can say that about violence. That’s one thing John Scalzi brings to many of his stories, an element that was once somewhat rarer in the science fiction genre, that of humor. He writes funny, engaging books. Little wonder he’s gotten famous.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at