Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
Published: Baen, 2010
Sub-genres: Adventure, Space Opera

The Book:

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 ClubDarkship 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.

My Thoughts:

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.


  1. Oooh, I like your comment about this being the literary equivalent to an SF action flick!

    Do you think you'd read any more if the series continues?

  2. Thanks! I think I would probably read more of the series. The universe she's created seems to have a lot of potential for exciting stories! What about you?

  3. I can definitely see myself reading more in this series or some of her other work.

  4. I totally agree with your take on her heroine! Sarah Hoyt has quite a few heroines like this. I think she does it because she wants it to believable that this woman would be able to survive in such a brutal patriarchal world.

    It's funny that you noticed how she kicks all the men in the balls too! She does that in quite a few of her other books too. The heroine even comments on it at one point. She says something like "I'm gonna crush the balls of the patriarchy. It seems only right that the men share in that experience." Lol! I can't remember which book that was in though.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I guess it does make sense that a less privileged or less audacious heroine would've had a hard time getting by in her world, much less having adventures. Also, it's interesting to hear that the balls-kicking is an intentional and pre-meditated habit!

    2. I think it's an interesting question how much an author should aim for realism at the expense of being more relatable. The problem is there are quite a few settings in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that you can't really do in a realistic way and still have it appeal to the average reader. I think that's pretty much what happened with this

      And I'm not 100% sure the ball-kicking was intentional in this one. All I know is that it was used in a very deliberate way in one of her other books. I forget which book it was, but the heroine had to hunt down a gang of men one-by-one and she would beat them in a fight and then in every single case she'd finish them off with a swift boot in the balls.

      Lol frankly I'm not gonna complain though. On some days I'd like to deal with quite a few men like that.