Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt

This novel really starts off with a great "hook". The heroine, Athena, is wakened from peaceful slumber in her Daddy's space yacht by the surreptitious treads of kidnappers or organleggers, or... Her general all around sneakiness and orneriness, combined with her lightning fast reflexes and mad combat skills enable her to elude the thugs and jump into an escape pod, in which she careens crazily through the asteroid belt...or some such.

An earlier, more technologically advanced civilization, sometime in the period after the fall of the USA to a central world government, developed a "plant" that grows energy pods, which absorb the solar rays and store them for later. Spacefarers harvest the pods before they grow too ripe and explode, and use them to power space ships and space stations, and all things spacey. When Athena dives into the heart of one of these power plants to hide from the aspiring abductors, she runs into (literally) a craft belonging to one of the Darkship Thieves, folks who were exiled long ago from Earth because of their extensive genetic biomodifications. Any who remained on the planet were lynched and horribly executed. Some of the exiles now live in secret in a hollowed out asteroid, and Athena's new acquaintance, Kit, is one of those folks.

So Kit (with modifications that make him look like a cat - really? Kit the Cat?) and Thena get along like the proverbial cat and dog (though she's really more of a fox), which tells you right away they're going to end up falling in love, right? I mean, how obvious can you get? Kit's world is organized politically and socially along libertarian lines. Unfortunately, aside from bits and dribbles here and there about how their laws, or lack thereof, affect Thena in her interactions with them, Hoyt doesn't really fully develop the background society, it just hovers there like some wafted in bit of scenery in a Broadway musical.

While it doesn't seem glaringly obvious to Thena that she's actually the beneficiary of some illegal and unapproved biological modifications, herself, it's obvious to the reader from nearly the start. She's almost as fast and strong as Kit, has incredible reflexes, and somewhere along the way discovers that she can communicate with him psionically, as well. Much of the middle portion of the book is dedicated to how she finally realizes she's got it bad for Kit, and unraveling some of his deep, dark, embarassing secrets. There's a bone tossed to Heinlein readers in the character of a family doctor who knows the truth, and who seems an awful lot like Jubal Harshaw in the way he acts and speaks his lines.

The style of the book seemed just a little too similar to some old SF, like E.E. "Doc" Smith's stuff, or some of the Burroughs Mars novels, for me to fully enjoy it. A touch contrived. Wondered if this was Hoyt's first novel. I'm torn about whether to spend the money for the second book in the series, or see if her fantasy novels are any better.

I stuck with it just to find out why the goons were trying to abduct her in the first place, but I grumbled a few times during the trip, "Are we there yet?"

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