Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book Review: Sassinak by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Moon

A close-up on the cover of Sassinak -
cover art by Stephen Hickman
Sassinak is a title that gets mentioned fairly frequently as a 'good lesbian book'. But it's not. Not exactly...

The book is LGBT friendly - at one point, in a discussion with Wefts (shape-changing aliens), it is stated that humans are bisexual, and Sassinak considers females as bedmates. But all her shown relationships are heterosexual. Others are described as being in a variety of relationships, but the focus is almost entirely on Sassinak, so these are scarcely touched on.

The plot is a bit rambling, although the theme sounds impressive - Sassinak is taken in a pirate raid on her planet and enslaved. Luckily she ends up rescued and instrumental in finding the slaver base (although in the end, uninvolved).

Skip a bit, and she's at Fleet academy, passing almost untouched through hazing and friendships alike, and finally graduating with honours and finding her way around her first ship duty... this part is the best bit of the story, looking back, as she ends up caught in conspiracy - but most of that was because the story broke away from Sassinak, for the most part, focussing on the other personalities.

Another skip, and she's taking command of a cruiser, and engaging in battle with pirates, then finally catching some would-be illegal colonisation in the act and rescuing her long-lost ancestor from a planet full of dinosaurs.

Sassinak (Planet Pirates, Vol 1) (v. 1)If you've read many of either Moon or McCaffrey's science fiction space travel books, then you have a good idea of what you're getting. Advanced space travel, hundreds of worlds, aliens, ships, and a military Fleet whose job it is to keep the peace. Sassinak is not the best novel either has written - too disjointed, as it follows the main character's life in three distinct sections, and too remote - I never doubted that cool, clever Sass would ever fail, leaching most of the tension. Frankly, it read more like good fanfiction, playing as it did in Anne MacCaffrey's story setting. (To be fair, this was written before most of either author's main body of work, so the books I read first actually came after this one).

Mostly, it suffered by avoiding showing most of the final inevitable actions of plot sequences - rescues, explanations and arrests may be foregone, but they are important to the story and skipping them leaves the reader without any closure. It's also vital to read the Dinosaur Planet books to make any sense of the last part, as very little of the backstory - or even current events! - outside of Sassinak's point of view is even touched on.

Sassinak is part of The Planet Pirates series - three books written by Anne McCaffrey and another collaborator, following two women - Sassinak and Lunzie. Lunzie is Sassinak's ancestor, who ends up in coldsleep and skips a few generations, and Sassinak is a girl taken by slavers, who then ends up a Fleet commander. They meet at the ends of their respective books (Sassinak and The Mystery of Ireta, in converging plots... to add to the confusion The Mystery of Ireta is not part of The Planet Pirates series and was originally two smaller books - Dinosaur Planet and Dinosaur Planet Survivors. And Lunzie actually begins before that, in Death of Sleep!). The last book is Generation Warriors, which follows their pirate fighting career as a team, and that I haven't yet read.

Further Reading

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