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Corsair by James L. Cambias
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Sam Lubell
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765379108
Date: 05 May 2015 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Corsair by James L. Cambias is a near future thriller about pirating space rockets that will have readers rooting for both the heroine and the pirate rogue. The book opens in 2030 when David Schwartz, a hacker who calls himself Captain Black the Space Pirate, uses a space satellite to divert the course of a moon rocket transporting helium-3 (for power plants) to Earth. After Air Force Captain Elizabeth Santiago's attempt to stop him results in the destruction of billion dollar anti-pirate satellite, she is pushed off the team, into a semi-private propulsion initiative.

But the anti-pirate campaign is personal for Elizabeth. Seven years earlier, as a MIT graduate student, she had a sexual relationship with David while he was attending class with a fake ID. Over time, she becomes aware of his criminal tendencies, stealing cars and hijacking traffic drones. They part ways when she returns early from a conference and catches him with another girl. Later, after she becomes part of the anti-pirate campaign, she recognizes David's traits in Captain Black but cannot get anyone to believe her.

Determined to catch Captain Black, Elizabeth plots a way to turn the propulsion test vehicle into an anti-pirate weapon, even if it means lying to her superiors. Meanwhile, David, bored with retirement, is recruited by Mahmoud Ghavami to capture another lunar payload launch. There is also a subplot about a college student pursuing her deceased father's dream of sailing around the world who gets involved with David when he needs a quick exit.

However, the novel is more than an exciting novel about pirates and those who chase them. The characters are also strong. Elizabeth becomes consumed with revenge. Quoting Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, she winds up betraying friends and coworkers. At one point, David even comments that she is breaking more laws than he did. Although there is some softening of the character when she falls in love with an astronaut, she remains serious and determined. By contrast, for most of the book, David, alias Captain Black the Space Pirate, is a lot more fun. He is into space piracy not just to make money, but for the joy of outwitting others and showing "everyone how Captain Black the Space Pirate was the baddest ass in outer space". He uses an elaborate virtual reality ocean pirate control interface. He calls what he does freelance economic justice and disputes the existence of morality as "just a set of rules people agree to follow. I donít agree with their rulebook".

Near future science fiction is hard to do because new scientific advances and political changes can so easily render it outdated on one hand, while authors risk making unrealistic projections on the other. Cambias is careful in his speculation; none of his spacecraft go beyond the moon. Still, I doubt we'd have routine lunar mining in just 25 years considering we have not had a moon landing in 43 years.

The book appears to be a standalone novel. Cambias certainly could write more in this universe, but the book is complete in itself.

Corsair is an exciting thriller. Fans of Tom Clancy and early Neal Stephenson will feel right at home here. This is a good book to give to family members who read high-tech thrillers, but claim not to read science fiction. It makes a perfect summer beach read, ideally outside at night where one can see the moon and the water at once.

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