Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Currently Reading: Darkship Thieves (part II)

I’ve read a couple hundred more pages now and it turns out that my initial fears were largely unfounded. As the books develops, the perpetual cliff-hanger syndrome I first noted gets less pronounced. The protagonist becomes much less of a caricature of a super-heroine as well. As a fish-out-of-water in an alien society, she has to deal with a whole range of problems that can’t be solved by bashing someone’s head in with a boot while running around naked!

When I heard that this book got a Prometheus award, I really dreaded the potential of it to get preachy or condescending. I mean… there’s nothing worse to me than when a movie or TV series has story elements that are obvious references to current political issues. When that X-men movie had that tedious scene where the teenage mutant boy had to “come out of the closet” to his parents, I was bashing my head on the seat in front of me. I gave up on Heroes when they introduced the super relevant illegal alien characters. And am I the only person that finds the oh-so-dramatic War on Terror undertones in Battlestar Galactic grating?

Lest you think it’s just issues on one particular end of the political spectrum that rub me the wrong way, I was mortified when David Weber went to great lengths to set up a character with a particular set of political beliefs and then not only have him be an obvious coward, but also have his super awesome female character of greatness slap him silly. Spaceships are exploding, wolds are dying and she’s just slapping the crap out of him. It’s moments like that where a novel just comes off to me as being nothing more than a shaggy dog story to make people feel good about their own smugness.

At any rate… Sarah Hoyt has a lighter touch when dealing with the political side of Darkship Thieves. Yes, the main character gets dropped into a totally different culture with a radically different politics. But I never feel like there’s an obvious take-away from it. (“Oh… that’s why I need to vote for Ron Paul– I get it now!”) It just is what it is. It’s just one more axiom that gets extrapolated out in the development of a consistent future history. As a Traveller referee, I find this especially valuable– all those worlds in the Imperium with so many different government types in such close proximity…. I’ve never been quite sure how to deal with that, but I have to say… Sarah Hoyt has developed a really useful example here.

My one disappointment is that the love story just strikes me as a parody of Pride and Prejudice. You know… there’s this guy who’s so aloof, so distant…. You hate him so much. And yet… over time you start to realize that there’s more to him than that. You still hate him, but you have this grudging respect for him… and then… one day… he wrestles you to the ground and he’s kissing you and… and… um…. Wait, now, what…? (Oh sorry– switched over to Harlequin mode for a second there. Oops.) Please… let this just be a coincidence. If this really is the sort of scenario that women are all secretly longing for, then I haven’t got a chance.

Here’s the kicker, though: the dude can actually read the woman’s mind. Aaaaaaaargh!

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