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Volume 29, Number 1, Fall 2010

Darkship Thieves

By Sarah Hoyt

Baen Books, 2010
Reviewed by Anders Monsen

Sarah Hoyt is a prolific novel and short story writer in several genres, including fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and science fiction. She dedicated her novel, Darkship Thieves, to Robert A. Heinlein; there are echoes of some of his earlier novels in her book. Her female protagonist fiercely independent, verging on self-centered and certainly prone to rash behavior.

Athena Sinistra, daughter and heir to one of earth’s ruling council, reluctantly accompanies her father into space on a routine tour. While docked at a station near a field of energy producing powertrees, she wakes to find the ship hijacked and in mortal danger. Through luck and pluck she escapes into the powertree field, and there finds refuge among a ship illegally harvesting the energy. The pilot of this ship, Christopher “Kit” Klaavil, belongs to an outlaw society descended from earth’s former rulers, genetically engineered humans modified for super-intelligence, strength, and speed, but unable to breed. These biohumans, or Mules as they also were called, were overthrown centuries before. The remaining few fled into space to hide and exist on the verges, stealing power from the powertrees. When Athena steps aboard Kit’s darkship, she sets in motion a series of events that hauls earth’s past out of the darkness, and onto a collision course with an even darker present.

The descendents of the Mules bioengineer their chldren, growing them in vats with various capabilities. They view themselves as Engineered Life Forms. Kit is such a being, suited to working in dark space. The rest of the inhabitants of Eden, the home of the descendents who fled earth, fear Athena and her links to earth. Hoyt’s portrayal of the society of Eden is almost a straight-forward libertarian utopia. No government is in charge, yet the rules are focused and sometimes complex, and Athena’s hot-headed responses end her, more often than not, in trouble. Her return to earth is inevitable, and here supplies new twists to the history of the Mules, and Kit and Athena’s identity. Hoyt’s novel is rife with ideas and non-stop action, and while it falters slightly on the irritating protagonist, this was an enjoyable sf novel, with a rare glimpse into a Galt’s Gultch society that works.

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