Could also be called:
Sky Captain and the Temple of Doom.
I love a good pulp novel - and a good pulp movie serial as well. Here I get something of both.
For while this book is a tribute to the old pulp works, to me it reads more as a pastiche of the cinematic pulp adventures than the written ones. Indeed, the author seems to say as much in the book itself.
Furthermore, I catch more than a hint of the modern tributes to the pulp classics. For example, it feels more like Sky Captain than it does Sky Raiders. More The Rocketeer than The King of the Rocket-Men.
And that's not a bad thing. A modern sensibility to the period-pastiche is a nice touch which I appreciate. And while it does a good job emulating a 1930s environment (I was able to picture the whole thing in black and white) I personally think it has elements of a more contemporary storytelling style that help it remain relevant to today's reader.
It's not too deep, I'll tell you that. Nor is it trying to be. What this book wants (and what it succeeds at) is to be a rollicking adventure drenched in the spirit of 1930s pulp sensibilities. It is pretty steadily-paced with a plethora of cliffhangers, and it never flags.
Some storytelling problems include very uneven chapter lengths (which disrupt the pacey flow a tad) and a very swift ending which follows a late plot revelation that could have fueled much more story beyond that point.
In addition (and this is the only thing that knocks the rating down a peg) there are frequent (and I mean ubiquitous) typos and punctuation errors. If these bug you too much (and they usually do for me) then prepare yourself because they are impossible to ignore. A lot of word repetition finds its way in as well, though this is a stylistic criticism rather than a technical one.
I don't want to seem down on this work as I enjoyed it a lot (and look forward to reading the sequels which this initial book leaves room to improve upon) but the flaws have to be noted. And they do detract - even if less than they might have.
"The Skyhook Pirates" is intentionally derivative. Don't expect much innovation here. The skill involved here was stitching together various elements to achieve a surprisingly cohesive whole. It ought not to be as good as it is with so many disparate ideas masquerading as one story, but it works dammit. The diversity helps make the plot seem fresh as the story unfolds - like each new chapter of the movie serial has its own character, but is telling one overarching story.
So, yeah. Get it if you like old pulp stories. Avoid it if you don't, because it makes no pretense to be anything other than what it is - and rightfully so.
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J Douglas Burton
Author of "The Sleepwar Saga" YA fantasy series. Also Victorian pulp SF series "The Star Travels of Dr. Jeremiah Fothering-Smythe".