My reading time is precious, so typically, when I decide on my next book, I will choose something based on word of mouth from a trusted source or select an old classic that I'd always intended to read, but just never got around to it. However, when I picked up my latest book, Darkship Thieves, by Sarah A. Hoyt, it was for an entirely different reason. Ms. Hoyt is a Portuguese-American science-fiction/fantasy writer and outspoken libertarian who contributes to a couple of political blogs I frequent. I became interested in her fiction by reading her online political musings and though most of her books might be described as historical fantasy, Darkship Thieves and her soon-to-be-released sequel, Darkship Renegades are pure space opera in its finest tradition.
Darkship Thieves is best described as a sci-fi romance. Settle down, you guys, there are no heaving bosoms and I do not recall a single use of the word "bodice". It is the story of Athena Hera Sinistra, the wayward daughter of a member of the ruling class in a far future Earth, centuries after a vicious pogrom cleansed the planet of genetically-modified humans including the dreaded rulers, the Biolords. Following a mutiny on her father's spaceship, Athena is forced to flee in an escape pod, only to be captured by a darkship thief. Darkship thieves are mysterious pirates who steal energy pods in their technologically-advanced and stealthy darkships. Athena's captor turns out to be a genetically-enhanced human with cat-like vision and reflexes named Kit Klaavil, a descendent of exiles who escaped Earth during the uprising against the Biolords. Though no match for Kit's superhuman reflexes, Athena had always been unusually adept in a variety of ways and her fighting prowess was no exception. Kit senses something unusual about her and decides to take her back to the hidden base of his people. What follows is a story of growing love between Kit and Athena and growing dread for the future of Kit's people. The climactic confrontation is action-packed and the big reveal is awesome.
Overall, Darkship Thieves has a distinct "golden-age" feel. There is little in the way of technical jargon, even though the main character is something of a gearhead. Although the budding romance between Athena and Kit is central to the novel, it doesn't read like chick-lit. There's plenty of action, interesting world-building and a smattering of Heinleinesque political commentary thrown in for good measure. Indeed, Darkship Thieves won the Prometheus Award for the best novel of 2011, from the Libertarian Futurist Society. Well worth a look.