Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
Published: Baen, 2010
Sub-genres: Adventure, Space Opera
The conservative, patriarchal Earth has long rid itself of its genetically engineered, superhuman tyrants, called the Mules, and their bio-engineered servants. Now, it is ruled by a council of ‘Good Men’, and biological modification is considered a crime. However, there are rumors that the Mules and their followers have survived. They are said to return secretly in their ‘Darkships’ to steal pods from the space-growing Powertrees, leftover tech from the Mules era that serve as an important energy source.
Athena Hera Sinistra is the spoiled, rebellious, only child of one of the ultra-rich Good Men of Earth. When she wakes up on her daddy’s cruiser one night to an ominous situation, she smashes her way to an escape pod and flees into the Powertrees. To her amazement, she runs into an honest-to-god Darkship, crewed by a cat-eyed pilot, Christopher ‘Kit’ Klaavil. The adventure that will change her life forever has just begun!
I’m reading Darkship Thieves as a part of the 2011 Women in Science Fiction Book Club. Darkship Thieves is the only book listed under the “Darkship Series” on Sarah Hoyt’s webpage, so I believe there may be more books to come in this universe.
I feel like this book is the literary equivalent of a Sci-Fi Action flick. The story is fast-paced and exciting, with just enough humor and romance thrown into the mix. It’s pretty clear who the good guys and the bad guys are, and the bystanders only exist to become collateral damage. The science is pretty soft, but the science is more scenery than center-stage in the story. It’s a fast read and, for the most part, I enjoyed it.
The story is told in first-person, from the point of view of Athena Hera Sinistra (nicknamed Thena). The writing felt very informal and conversational. It was an entertaining style, despite the occasional awkwardness of phrasing. My main complaint with this approach was my aversion to hearing the entire story filtered through the mind of a protagonist who, for the most part, I found unsympathetic.
The heroine, Thena, is a violent, attractive, highly privileged heiress, who is always either dismissive or contemptuous of the people around her. She has a fairly extensive skill-set for a 19-year-old, ranging from ballet to martial arts (she’s the best fighter she’s ever met—till her love interest comes along). In addition, she has superhuman spatial skills and a natural knack with all things mechanical. She has a fondness for heavy weaponry and kicking men in the balls, and an intense aversion to rational thought. She also finds the time to lounge around in a futuristic biker gang with the other spoiled, rich kids. She does mature a little bit throughout the story, mostly due to her love interest, but she was a little hard for me to take as a heroine in the beginning.
I enjoyed reading about the differences in society between the highly patriarchal and hierarchical Earth and the ordered anarchy of Eden (home of the Darkship Thieves). I think the flaws of society on Earth were made pretty apparent throughout the narrative, but I wish we’d seen a little more of the drawbacks of Eden’s society. For example, in Eden there are no laws, but if you kill someone you have to pay a large fine to their family. Therefore, if someone has no family, there is no penalty for killing them. I imagine there would be a problem with unruly teenage gangs murdering the homeless and orphans for fun. Maybe Hoyt will expand on the darker side of Eden in future installments in the Darkship series.
My Rating: 3/5
Darkship Thieves is a solid sci-fi action story. It has plenty of violence, and plenty of exciting little plot twists. My general lack of sympathy for the heroine made it a little difficult initially to get into the story, but the fast-paced story always kept me turning the pages. I don’t know that it’s the kind of book that will stick in my mind for years, but it was certainly fun to read.