Saturday, 11 April 2015

How To Bring The Universe Together

I don't like football, and I'm not a huge fan of sci-fi. The very idea of the Galactic Football League should have had me turning away. But the catch– they're written by Scott Sigler, a writer I continue to respect, gain inspiration from, and fangirl over. Because of the name behind them, I gave the novels a shot. And I could not be more glad that I took the risk. From the time I began the series to completing it just a few wees ago, I have not been able to stop talking about it. None of my friends believe me when I say: "You have to read this series!" but I mean it. You don't need to know anything about football to enjoy the novels. They haven't converted me into an NFL superfan. But some of the most intense action scenes and field battles were written in this series, moments that had me biting my nails, and circumstances I will never forget.

Since this series spans five novels and three novellas, I'm going to summarize my thoughts on the series as a whole. I'll try to keep the spoilers at a minimum, but suffice it to say that the Galactic Football League is a series of books unlike anything you've ever read, and you will not be able to put them down.

Every book has a crazy cover, so I thought I'd share the one from my favorite novel in the series.
Since I'm summing up an entire series rather than a single book, here's what you need to know: The Galactic Football League is set in a distant future with hundreds of planets, dozens of races, and millions of citizens. The one thing that seems to bring everyone together is football, particularly the GFL, where teams move up through different Tiers with the dreams of becoming Galaxy Bowl champions. Revolving in the center of this race is star quarterback Quentin Barnes, an orphaned young man who spent most of his life living on a racist human planet dreaming of bigger things, as he learns to accept all of his not-quite-ordinary humans and completely alien teammates. Because to win the Galaxy Bowl, Quentin not only has to adapt to the harsh battle of the field, but he must trust them to keep him alive...

That's about the most I can sum up the series without delving too much in to spoiler territory, and trust me when I say it's better that way. For a book that revolves around football and a player's terrifying obsession with it, there is a surprising amount of drama. Seriously, daytime TV has nothing on this, especially when it comes to Quentin's family, tension with slightly psychotic teammates, and even a love triangle at one point. Mentally I would joke about it, but the reality is that I found every story compelling and unique, the drama never over-the-top and never thrown in without a reason.

As equally interesting is the politics and depictions of other alien races. Most of the teams are run by bloodthirsty gangsters, which is ironic since the whole idea of the GFL was to build unity between races and create a more solid environment between a universe with creatures that will literally eat their own to deal with overpopulation. Yes, I do mean literally.

While the cultures and world building are on a truly epic, Star Wars scale, I admit I tend to forget about them when the action scenes roll around, and that's only because the action scenes, and the football games for that matter, are on a completely engaging level. Whenever Quentin and his friends were in a game, a fistfight, or running for their lives, all I could think about was: "how the hell are they going to get out of this one," and "please for the love of God don't let anyone else die!" Because this is a Scott Sigler novel, and if there's one thing I've learned from reading his books, it's that someone I like always dies.

But I'm not kidding about the action– it is insane. The things that happen in this series are all the more intense, because these characters weigh in anywhere from 350lbs to 800lbs. The cover above for The MVP is there because in addition to being my favorite novel in the series, it had one of the most desperate battles of football I've ever read. The games are wickedly brutal any way you slice them (they actually have death tallies), but I was literally biting my nails through the entire chapter, shocked at the pain these men and women and aliens were putting themselves through. I won't tell you what Quentin did to play the game, but I will give you my thought process: "Oh my God, he's not going to do that is he? No he's not, he's– Oh my God! What are you thinking?! Don't do it, don't– He totally did it. Wow."

And if you think that's insane, allow me to share my thoughts about the novella Title Fight: "What... The... F*ck... Did I just read, and let's read it again to make sure my eyes didn't deceive me... Nope. That totally happened. Holy sh*t."

If the above isn't motivation enough, here's some more– the characters. Sigler is fantastic at creating interesting, semi-insane characters, and that's more evident in this series than ever. While I have love for dual-personality Becca, highly intelligent Kimberlin, loyal Choto, and the truly insane Tweedy brothers, Quentin is still the rock star of the series. He goes through an absolutely amazing transition, always growing and becoming a stronger character. Really, the series isn't about football or space politics at all. It's about one man learning to change his outlook and better his life, and the life of those around him. Quentin can be an asshole at times, but he's one of the strongest leads in science fiction, and my greatest pleasure from the series (jaw-dropping football games and ruthless fistfights aside) was watching him grow.

I knew I would like this series because it was written by master author Scott Sigler. I didn't think I would fall in love with it as much as I did. Even before writing this review, I've ranted about it to all my friends, telling them, "Seriously, I know how it sounds, but give it a chance, and you won't be disappointed." Funny how Quentin said similar things to his teammates when things were falling apart, and it was time for the underdogs to rise back up and kick some serious ass.


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