NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt

A review of "Darkship Thieves"
The new novel by Sarah A. Hoyt
Published by Baen Books

I like Science Fiction.

I'm not picky, I like all kinds: Space Opera, Hard Science, Science Fantasy, Alternate History,
Action, Thriller.

OK, I AM picky. It has to be GOOD Science Fiction. I want likeable characters, an interesting
plot, and believable science (with allowances for the classic dictum that any sufficiently
advanced science could well be indistinguishable from magic).

Sarah Hoyt is an experienced writer of historical fiction, romance, fantasy, urban fantasy and
yes, science fiction. Darkship Thieves is Sarah's first venture into space opera for Baen Books.
However, DST is more than just Space Opera. It is part thriller and part adventure with just a
touch of quirky romance, all set in a future that may not be all that different from our own
present. Why would I call it a thriller and adventure novel? Well, in addition to Science Fiction,
I also like to read thrillers and adventure. Spy novels by Ludlum and Le Carré, adventure by
Cussler and Clancy and psychological thrillers by Koontz and Sandford. There is one feature of
all of these novels styles that stands out - investment in a character, and an overwhelming urge
to pick the protagonist up, shake them by the neck, and shout: "I figured this out, why can't you!"
Instead, we keep reading until late at night (or early in the morning), just one more page - surely
they'll figure it out on the next page.

You know what I'm talking about - the same urge that drives people to watch those slasher
movies where you want to tell the clueless college student "DON'T go in the attic! That's where
the bad guy is hiding, can't you SEE it?"

It's called psychological investment, or identification, with a character. In the writing craft, that's
what keeps you turning page after page long after your spouse has gone to bed. You HAVE to
read that next page because you want to see the hero get the reward, although much more
frequently, you want to see the villain get their just desserts.

In Darkship Thieves, Athena Hera Sinistra is the daughter of one of Earth's most rich and
powerful men. She accompanies him on a routine trip, playing the dutiful social accessory
despite her naturally rebellious nature. However a mutiny on her father's spaceship forces her
into an escape pod headed directly for the ancient and deadly Powertree Ring that "grows" power
pods for Earth's energy needs. Despite the risk of crashing into an explosive pod, she instead
crashes into a dark and furtive ship that is stealing power pods for a colony that Earth doesn't
know exists. These "darkship thieves" are the descendents of Earth's aborted attempt to
genetically engineer a race of superior humans many hundreds of years ago.

'Thena is rescued by Kit, the pilot and lone occupant of the darkship. Despite Thena's wish to
return to Earth, Kit rescues her from her own folly and takes her back to the Eden colony. To
say that Thena is displeased with her rescuer and status as an unwilling exile is an
understatement. Athena Hera Sinistra is a deeply flawed character, raised nearly in isolation
from mainstream society. She rebels against nearly every authority figure in her life and is the
despair of many schools, tutor, doctors and hospital. Her contempt for the same is revealed on
many occasions, but despite all this, Thena is a likable character. There is a REASON she is this
way, and when Thena discovers it, as well as the truth about "Daddy Dearest" the reader is right
there cheering her on.

In Darkship Thieves, Sarah Hoyt has created characters we can believe - flawed, but worthwhile,
and on this voyage of self-discovery, including the most humorous romance I'VE ever read in
Science Fiction, the reader is right there along with Thena and Kit, cheering them on, and
sometimes wanting to pick Thena up by the scruff of her neck, shake her, and shout: "*I* figured
out what 'Daddy Dearest' is up to, why can't YOU?"

Sarah Hoyt has created an enjoyable read that should please fans of urban fantasy, science
fiction, and even diehard adventure/thriller fans, too. And when you think about it, there's just
enough suggestion that maybe there's more to this story than can fit in one novel. Here's hoping
for more great characters from Sarah Hoyt.