By Sarah Hoyt
Baen, 384 pp., $15.46
Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt won the Prometheus 2011 award for showcasing an interesting and possible future libertarian world, yet this is just one aspect of her complex novel. It’s a rollicking fun and well-plotted space opera with more twists and turns than a genome map. In fact, the fifth book in the series Darkship Revenge just released in May 2017.
The adventure starts when Athena Hera Sinistra awakens during what she perceives to be a mutiny or highjacking of her father’s space cruiser. She escapes into a lifepod and starts toward the base they’d visited and sends an SOS. As she approaches, a broadcast announcement declared her hallucinating and armed and dangerous. Terrified of detainment, she turns away from the base and into the dangerous harvesting field, seeking assistance from one of the harvesters.
Her lifepod runs into a darkship (a ship of legend) and the captain, an Engineered Life Form or ELF for short, saves her. Bioengineered humans left the planet three hundred years ago and were understood to have died on the journey seeking a new home planet. This information has been redacted for most and partially lost due the ensuing turmoils (riots and wars) after the human earthlings terminated all bioengineered humans. Most on Earth think none survived the turmoils and the launch to space a myth, but Athena has knowledge of their exodus, as she is a type of princess for being a daughter of one of the fifty Good Men, who each run a section of the planet.
Chaos ensues as the captain, Kit, knows all Earth history, and Thena thinks he and his kind didn’t live. Personal revelations and attacks aside it is clear that Thena is being hunted by her father, one of the Honorable Patricians, and the only way to save her is to take her back to the colony called Eden, which results in it’s own set of significant problems.
This page-turner book promises to keep you up past your bedtime. Thena is a petulant, know-it-all, rebellious teenager, raised by a wealthy, disinterested father who has never wanted for anything, except love. Through her first person narration she discloses that she is different from others as she posses speed, strength, sense of direction and mechanical ability. Her transformation over the novel is believable as she learns about her history, understands others’ point of view, becomes less self centered, and ultimately more human. Kit is another clever character who is immediately more likable despite his extensive bioengineering.
The libertarian world of Eden is intriguing. The flyer car scenes in a place of no traffic laws are a hoot while the serious concept of bled geld – paying a fee to the surviving family members for murder – showcase conflicting wills can be a determent of the community. My only criticism is the cover art. Forgive me for being a prude but I worried this was a hard-core book. In actuality the cover doesn’t show a scene from the book. It’s an interpretation of Thena being caught in the powertree plants next to the darkship, which occurred with her in a lifepod wearing a nightgown; she wasn’t naked floating in space wrapped in plants covering her nakedness.
Darkship Thieves was a fun jaunt on Earth and the outpost of Eden. The characters add a healthy dose of excitement while the reader attempts to unweave to multi-layered plot.