Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Five Books About Running Away to Join the Space-Pirates

Hah, what a great idea for a column. Here it is at tor.com: Five books about running away to join the space-pirates.

Here they are:

1) Jack Crow of Armor by John Steakley, running away from prison and various self-inflicted misfortunes to join a crew planning a research colony heist. I met him as he was plotting to kill somebody who didn’t need to die, and I was worried about the main character at the time, so I was not happy to see him in the book, at first. His alternative courses of action are all terrible, though, and he barely tolerates the legend that humanity has constructed around him. Because he’s an unlikable fellow, it’s fun to watch him suffer through everybody treating him as “Jack Crow, ferocious pirate.” 

Well, I don’t like watching unlikable fellows, suffering or otherwise, so I’ll probably give this one a miss.

2) Miles Vorkosigan gets his start at being a pirate in The Warrior’s Apprentice

Of course! Though he did not join the space pirates so much as re-create the space pirates in his own image, which is perhaps not quite the same thing.

3) Jos Musey of Warchild by Karin Lowachee his chance to do [run away and join the pirates] comes long before he’s ready for it. And after the pirates raid his family’s merchant vessel, there’s no home to go back to and the adventure doesn’t end. Jos has a hard life aboard his new home, the Gengis Khan, but eventually he accepts to become what is basically a tattooed space pirate assassin-priest. 

Yeah, I wound up not being crazy about this duology. Among other things, it was soooooo obvious who the overall bad guy was, and the good guys spend soooooo long dithering rather than dealing. I really thought the bad guy must be a red herring, he was SO OBVIOUS. Nope.

Other things also bugged me about this story, but that’s the one that stands out in my memory.

4) This is a line in the 2016 installment of the series, Babylon’s Ashes: “James Holden has just declared piracy legal.” That’s it. That’s the series. Holden and his crew are always sailing from one disaster to the next, and this is no exception. There’s been a radical change to the galactic political landscape, and Holden has backed the losing side because he has history with them. 

Kind of an Oops moment right there. I liked the first book of this series pretty well, but I didn’t go on with it.

5) I first heard of Neptune’s Brood (2013) as Charles Stross’s blog post titled “Books I will not write #4: Space Pirates of KPMG.” I am so glad he wrote it anyway. Aside from the economics, which are very interesting, the protagonist, Krina Alizond-114, is venturing forth to find her missing sister when one Count Rudi and his crew attack her ship. Rudi obviously recognizes skeletons in closets because he’s running from several in his own, despite his claims to being an “honest privateer.” I mean, he is a space pirate bat accountant, and have you read about bats?

Okay, that one sounds really fun! Space pirate / accountant, with bats! OTOH, Charles Stross’ work does not always appeal to me. Has anybody read this? What did you think?

Okay, we can definitely expand this list, because it’s not that hard to think of a handful more that belong:

6) In Corsair, James Cambias gives us a guy who ran off to join the space pirates some time ago. Now he might be involved in something he needs to get out of, if he can:

In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT and have a brief affair. David is amoral, out for himself, and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating. Ten years later, David works in the shadows for international thieves, and Elizabeth prevents international space piracy.

I liked this book quite a bit, which is saying something, because near-future SF is a pretty hard sell for me.

Incidentally, looks like Cambias has a new one out this year: Arkad’s World, which doesn’t look to me like exactly something I’d ordinary jump on, but what with A Darkling Sea and Corsair, sure.

7) Becky Chambers hands us a very definite space-pirate element in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and especially in the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit.

In the latter, Pepper’s story is so compelling I was not quite as engaged by Lovelace. But I did like both subplots, and one day soon I must go on to the third book. Anyway, very definitely space piracy going on in A Closed and Common Orbit. Also a definite element of running away. This is probably my favorite book on this list so far.

Not sure I can get to ten … okay, here’s one more, which may be a bit of a stretch:

8) I haven’t read this one, but it’s on my radar: Artemis by Andy Weir. I hear it’s not as good as The Martian, but still, I do want to try it one of these days.

Here’s part of the description:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Does smuggling count as piracy? Not sure about the running away to join the pirates, that may be a stretch.

That’s eight. Anybody have a candidate for this running-away-to-join-the-pirates theme?

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3 Comments Five Books About Running Away to Join the Space-Pirates

  1. Allan Shampine

    I hadn’t realized Becky Chambers had a third book out in that series. Must go buy.

    On a different note, I quite liked Artemis. The main character is very competent but not infallible. Ironically, one of the biggest problems created occurs because she was so very careful about foreclosing a different problem. And it’s all based on science! I’ve heard people say Artemis is a cross between a heist movie and the Martian, and I think that’s a pretty fair comparison. Also, the scariest person in the book is an economist, so bonus points for that…

  2. Hanneke

    Maybe Jason Fry: The Jupiter Pirates? It’s about a family based on one of Jupiter’s moons who’se family business is space piracy, as is common around those parts. It’s meant for young teens so the three kids of the family (vying for the future captaincy by showing initiative) are the primary focus, but it’s not exactly ‘running away’ to join the pirates when being a pirate is something you do on the family ship, with mom and dad and scary grandpa (and a company of space marines).
    There are three books out in the series now, and as we get more hints about dark secrets from scary grandpa’s past when pirates were really bad and mean (not civilised like they try to be now while still making money at piracy…) but also won freedom for their space settlements, it looks set to continue. They’re fun but not something to rave about.

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