Temporary Duty starts off great, Earth has been visited by aliens who have invited mankind up for a drink as it were. Two enlisted men from the US Navy happen to be of the lucky kind and get the job of preparing the ships quarters so that the feathers of the officers and NCO’s who will be joining the Gallt (name of primary alien race encountered) remain unruffled. From here the story, the backdrop and the plot develops. I say plot, this is a space opera there is no “go there, do that plot” but rather the point of the story is the story. And it continues to develop, some might note when reading it that it seems to cover alot of day to day minutia of the characters lives. This is as I mentioned a space opera, but of course there is some action in the story. This is not what drives the story but it adds to the backdrop of the story.
The story evolves as the ship departs on its trade journey through space with the human delegation on board (US Navy SPADET 1, is the name for it) and the interaction between humans themselves and human and aliens. The story is mainly told from the perspective of the two enlisted men, and how they somehow seem to end up getting along with aliens more than the officers and NCO’s at times. This is one of the things that makes the bones of this story, there are many other elements, but this is I think something most people who have served will snicker and smile at. And those who haven’t will still get it, but possibly not to the same “ooooh my gooood that is soooo true!” extent.
Where this book runs into trouble is the end, there will be no spoilers here so fear not. Read on..
The story builds up, and a thread if not a small plot appears that suggests that an end might be coming soon, and it does with screetching sounds of metal against metal and then implodes with such force that it drags all characters into a vacuum, and you sit there in disbelief. Not because it is not the ending you wanted nor because the hero didn’t get the girl (not actually spoilers as I use these phrases without referring to the story) But because of the sudden abrupt turn of the story, the sudden change that lacks credibility, unexplained out of nowhere I am tempted to use the phrase deus-ex machina…. and it would be fitting. When characters suddenly and without explanation turn it to stereotypical nit-wits of such caliber as this *gah* speechless.
HOWEVER, in conclusion. The story upon till the ending is great and makes somewhat up for the horrible ending, you will have laughs and some snickering throughout this story, and possibly a great one at the end when faced with the story’s implosion, of the “I really can’t believe I have just read something so bad.” To put it in perspective, the last few chapters is basically as bad as the entire “Battlefield Earth” movie (without any other comparison or similarities other than the quality of BAD they represent)
I would not recommend this book to people who are just getting in to sci-fi/space opera, as it might scare them off. Those who have been around the block a few times I would recommend it to, with the caveat that they should expect it to implode towards the end.