07 May 2011

Overdue book review: Darkship Thieves

Darkship Thieves by Sarah A Hoyt. 2010, Baen Books

Back in March, I went to StellarCon and got some books for free at the Baen Roadshow. This was one of them.

The story opens with Athena Hera Sinistra, the daughter of a Patrician on a future Earth which has seen rule by not-so-benevolent genetically-engineered overlords, who were overthrown in a war and replaced by Patricians on quasi-seasteads. (Patri Friedman would be proud.) She's awakened from sleep by a thug who is intent on abducting her, and she escapes from him using "feminine wiles" (aka ripping her nightgown open down the front. I actually literally rolled my eyes there.)

She aims for the collectors, since she has friends among them. So, this future Earth has Magic Energy from these energy pods that grow around the planet, and people harvest them. Anyway, she has some friends there, and she aims the escape pod toward the vines. She runs into a darkship, piloted by a descendant of the escaped bio-lords. He is, of course, a fine specimen of the male figure.

This story is one part romance, one part mystery, one part political intrigue, and three parts paean to anarcho-individualism. When Athena and Kit return to Kit's home, she's shocked by the lack of traffic laws. Because OF COURSE everyone drives defensively, and they'll swerve out of the way of oncoming aircars at 50 mph. And never hit another aircar. I came very close to throwing the book across the room on more than one occasion because of the idiotically naive worldview set on Hoyt's pedestal.

Another thing that made me want to fling the book was a bit of full-blown Islamophobia. "By the mid-twenty-first century it was obvious that Europe was dying. There were other problems too. The last gasps of a religion that refused to integrate into modernity had caused a war..." (p 257).

Ironically enough, it's OK to be gay in Hoyt's future libertarian-idyllic world. Athena has a gay best friend (two, actually), and various people from Kit's colony are in same sex couples. It's not OK to be Muslim or to believe that there are no inherent intellectual gender differences, apparently. "In the twenty-first [century] people believed the zaniest things. That there are no gender differences in the human brain." (p 87) [Reality-based spoiler: there aren't. There are more differences between individual males or females than between the average male and female on the bell curve.]

The romance aspect wasn't believable for me. I know romance novels shove the heroine and hero together and suddenly magic happens, but I didn't really see Athena developing any feelings for Kit. I saw him making awkward romantic gestures to her (going on a picnic, for example), but her inner narration didn't give the impression that she liked him until all of a sudden.

The one positive I can pull from it is that Athena has no desire to have children, and this goes against romance tropes.

The book is written in first person, Athena's POV. I thought she was annoying, and there were things I figured out a hundred pages before they were revealed (the hinting from the doctor on Kit's colony, for example). Maybe not the exact specifics, but I twigged to the Big Secret WAY before Athena did. That's one of the drawbacks of first person POV. Some readers may be more intelligent than your MC.

The story is interesting, if rushed at times, and the ending isn't what I suspected it would be when I started reading it. However, I cannot recommend this book to other people without reservation for the right-wing agenda aspects listed above (that is, Islamophobia and anti-feminism).

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