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Pirate Sun
Karl Schroeder
Tor, 320 pages

Pirate Sun
Karl Schroeder
Karl Schroeder was born in 1962 in Brandon, Manitoba. He moved to Toronto in 1986 to further his writing career. In 1996, he was elected president of SF Canada. His awards include the Context '89 Short Story contest for his story "The Cold Convergence" (then titled "Live Wire") and "The Toy Mill" won the 1993 Aurora award for best short work in English.

Karl Schroeder Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Queen of Candesce
SF Site Review: Lady of Mazes
SF Site Review: The Engine of Recall
SF Site Review: Permanence
SF Site Interview: Karl Schroeder
SF Site Review: Permanence
SF Site Review: Ventus
SF Site Review: Ventus

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Pirate Sun is the third novel in Karl Schroeder's Virga sequence. The first, Sun of Suns, established the setting (Virga is a sort of a bubble in the Vega system in which are contained one larger artificial sun (Candesce) and numerous smaller "suns" as well as space habitats) and introduced Hayden Griffin, a young man from one of Virga's nations who ends up in the Navy of a conquering power (Slipstream) as they make a daring journey to Candesce to enable them to defeat another invading nation, the Falcon Formation. The second book, Queen of Candesce, follows Venera Fanning, the scheming wife of Slipstream's Admiral, as she, marooned as a result of the events of the first book, causes political chaos in another interesting Virga habitat with the eventual plan of returning to Slipstream. Now this third book focuses on the Admiral himself, Chaison Fanning. He is a prisoner of the nation he defeated in the first book until Venera manages to free him. But in the process Chaison gets lost again -- his sense of duty causes him to also help free a couple of other Slipstream natives -- and he and his friends, along with the mysterious "winter waif" Antaea Argyre, end up in a major city of the enemy Falcon Formation. There they meet up with Antaea's organization, the Home Guard, a near legendary group that protects Virga from outside dangers.

Complications pile on complications. Chaison is of course a wanted man in Falcon. But he is also, he learns, regarded as a traitor by the ruling Pilot of Slipstream. And what do the Home Guard want with Chaison? Moreover, what does Antaea really want? Is she truly loyal to the Home Guard? Finally, Falcon itself is under attack by yet another nation, and the extremely honorable Chaison finds himself using his military skills to help his enemy defend itself.

This complicated plot maintains the interest, though in some ways it is also predictable, especially as Chaison returns home, to an inevitable reunion with Venera (and where do her loyalties lie?) and to a confrontation with the Pilot. More interesting, in a science-fictional sense, is what we learn about the real nature of Virga, and about the human and post-human civilization outside Virga. There were hints in the previous books of conflicts in the larger universe but here they become much more important, and quite central to the resolution of this novel (and to the slingshot to the presumed next).

The first two novels were among my favorite adventure SF of the past couple of years. This novel is similarly enjoyable, though perhaps just a bit less satisfying. The characters throughout the series tend to be more types than fully-fleshed, and Chaison's admirable honor makes us root for him, but also comes off a bit stiff. Venera is, if in some ways a cliché, the most interesting character in the series, and in this book her role is unfortunately minor. Also, the middle section drags just a bit, and seems somewhat padded. That said, I still had a lot of fun reading it.

Pirate Sun more or less resolves the plot lines and questions introduced in the first two books, though the ending clearly sets up for future books in the same setting. And Virga is a fascinating place in which to set stories, made even more so by the revelations about its true nature we get here, and of the conflicts governing this particular larger future (which is linked to some of Schroeder's other novels). Quite intriguing larger questions are raised that bode well for future books.

Copyright © 2008 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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