Ant Queen & The Bounty Hunter, The, By Bethy Squires, 240 pgs.

It’s sometime in the future. Planets are ruled by monarchies or just the very wealthy. A virus is sweeping the galaxy that turns your brain into mush slowly and eventually turns your whole body into mush… not so slowly. The story’s protagonist (if you could call her that) is Dot, a smooth-talking, hard-drinking, wise-cracking, scam-plotting bounty hunter. She comes across a bounty that could potentially save the universe, which she could care less about.

Without a vessel, she heads to a discount ship lot and comes across an Ant Queen, a discontinued series of ship where a human donor body was used in its construction. They were pulled from the market because the ships eventually killed its pilot, crew, and potentially anybody else around. Dot gets to know her hypothetically homicidal ship and gives her the name Rosalie.

Rosalie has no memory of her former life and is real kooky. She’s hyper, very friendly, and a little sad. It is, after all, her first go at space since being impounded when most other Ant Queens were burning people up. I often imagined Rosalie as Gir, the dumb little robot on the show Invader Zim. Except Rosalie is far more dependable, resilient, smart—and to my knowledge—not obsessed with junk food. 

The duo travel through space and time (accidentally). Dot lands on planets to shake down leads and sneak around castles, casinos, and hunting lodges while “Roz” is usually in orbit and present through the com system. Things get hairy when Dot contracts the virus after seeing several billionaires explode and even more hairy when her bounty seems a little too easy to track down.

This is an extremely funny book. The characters are all pretty wit-filled and Dot’s cynical inner monologue keeps your attention. The book was released before the global COVID-19 pandemic took a real hold. There are plenty of works of science fiction about pandemics to compare to the current one, but there is a scene where Dot ponders taking off her protective gear—possibly spreading the virus to everyone around her—just so she can eat a piece of cake. That is a very accidental bit of satire on how people are acting in our country.

The cover should be mentioned. It was done by illustrator/printmaker Izzy Jarvis and it’s a great homage to discount sci-fi novel covers written in the ’60s and ’70s. You know, the ones you find in stinky boxes at garage sales. 

The beginning of the book starts a bit slow, but once it gets going, it takes you on a hilarious patriarchy-smashing sci-fi romp that you will blast through quickly. A definite must-read during your quarantine. –Rick V. (F.I.N.E. Editions fineeditions.org)