Book Review: Darkship Renegades

DarkshipRenegadesby Timothy Lane   9/22/14
Sarah A. Hoyt is a writer with a strong libertarian bent, but she shows in Darkship Renegades (sequel to Darkship Thieves and set during the same revolt that forms the basis of A Few Good Men, which I reviewed her a while back). The protagonist and narrator of the two Darkship books is Athena Hera Sinistra, a refugee from Earth to the utopian libertarian world Eden. Like Lucius in A Few Good Men Athena is the child of one of the Good Men who run Earth – and who intended to take over her body just as Lucius’s father wanted to do to him. (Evidently her father had some interesting sexual characteristics, though this never really comes up much in either book.)

Eden has some problems, reflecting the fact that it doesn’t occupy a normal planet with normal resources. Thus, it has to acquire water from ice, and energy from the pods of powertrees that were created centuries ago in Earth orbit to provide the planet with power. Naturally, this can be a risky procedure, even more so after Athena escaped her father’s control since their search for her occasionally leads to the loss of an Edenite ship.

The major Edenite problem is that all this energy comes under the control of a single board under the hereditary management of the Castaneda family and their friends and relatives. Unfortunately, the current scion, Fergus Castaneda, seems to have an inordinate desire for power. As Athena eventually realizes, this desire is negative in a way that other desires (such as avarice or lust, or for that matter gluttony) are not. One can satisfy greed without harming others; but the desire for power is inherently the desire to make other people do what they don’t want (and/or not to do what they want).

To be sure, there is no government in Eden; but that doesn’t matter. If you oppose Fergus Castaneda, you find that your energy allocation is severely cut back. And, later, you might find that important members of your family are being killed – all in self-defense, according to the witnesses, who conveniently happen to be linked to the Castaneda family. (One interesting problem with a lack of police that never seems to occur to the more anarchistic libertarians is that without detectives, it can be very hard to solve any crime that isn’t committed openly. Ted Bundy, John Gacy, and Gary Ridgway would love places like Eden.)

Hoyt thus shows that, unlike too many libertarians, she realizes that the problem is power, however someone is able to exercise it, not government per se. Eden is an example of what Larry Niven, in his novel A World Out of Time referred to as a water empire: a state in which the government (or in this case a corporate board) has effective control of a key resource needed for survival. Such places ultimately tend to become totalitarian as those with power learn how much they enjoy it. It doesn’t require calling whoever controls the resource a government to give it unlimited power. For that matter, as the leftist PC mob frequently shows today, all it takes is the ability to intimidate enough people that opposition becomes dangerous.

Athena and her husband, Kit, with a couple of colleagues, are able to escape condemnation for their actions of the previous book by promising to return to Earth and discover how to raise their own powertrees. Naturally, Fergus Castaneda has no intention of seeing his monopoly interfered with, and he sets up a deadly trap for their ship. Despite this, they reach Earth in the middle of the revolt against the Good Men. But there remains the problem of getting the needed information and returning (particularly since the ship in which they traveled to Earth barely survived long enough to get them there, and is no longer available).

Making things worse, her husband suffered a brain injury, and the doctor’s treatment (which had to be hasty, since they knew they had to escape Eden as soon as possible) has led to Kit’s mind being increasingly taken over by that of his father, Jarl (who had been one of the original Good Men). Jarl and their doctor had been old friends from hundreds of years earlier, which always leaves open the possibility that the Doc may have some uncertain loyalties. The problem is that Jarl had intended to take over his son’s body, albeit by a different means – nano mechanisms that would rewire his brain during adolescence, rather than transferring his brain into the body and disposing of the original.

This leads to a number of ethical concerns. Jarl’s wife had opposed his plans, which eventually led to their deaths (apparently he killed her and committed suicide). Only a small number of the nanomachines had been put in Kit’s brain – but his risky treatment for injury activated them. As the story progresses, Kit has less and less influence on his own brain as the rewiring enables Jarl to take control.

The result is a very complex plot, which I wont go into detail because anyone interesting can find out better by reading the book. Hoyt is probably more libertarian than most readers here, but she does show a certain amount of realism as well. The flaw of libertarianism is that ideology often trumps realism (much has happens with liberalism, in fact, except that liberalism is even less realistic in terms of policy). So a realistic libertarian can be considered part of the large wing of conservatism (and certainly an improvement over a RINO).


Timothy Lane writes from Louisville, Kentucky and publishes the FOSFAX fanzine.
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One Response to Book Review: Darkship Renegades

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    You have certainly outlined your share of novels that can help occupy the rainy days of fall and winter.

    One interesting problem with a lack of police that never seems to occur to the more anarchistic libertarians is that without detectives, it can be very hard to solve any crime that isn’t committed openly. Ted Bundy, John Gacy, and Gary Ridgway would love places like Eden.

    You are another person who doesn’t mind mixing politics and art. Given that so much of our culture does so (to good and ill effect), perhaps only a blinkered person wouldn’t comment on it.

    Mr. Kung has a theory that many of these libertarians are just unleashing their inner monsters. Who else would want society to be free from police protection? Who else goes through such long, strained, and contrived arguments demonizing civil organizations dismissing them as oppressive?

    I’ve certainly read my share of Utopian-like novels. They’re the ones where stupendous scientific worlds are created by the best and the brightest who always act for the good of society. Man is set free to pursue knowledge and art instead of wasting so much energy on war and social dysfunction. Fast-forward to our own scientific community of the supposed best and brightest who regularly lie about things such as global warming.

    What Utopian novels or shows such as “Star Trek: The Next Generation” do not typically show is how the truly criminal elements are dealt with. It’s often just assumed that some critical mass of “good intentions” takes hold in a society and criminal thoughts and acts no longer occur to people — a naive idea that seems to underpin both libertarianism and Progressivism.

    To its credit, the original Star Trek series touched on that subject in Dagger of the Mind, although the gist of this episode is what went wrong when giving nearly unlimited power to correctional officers (such as Barney Miller’s Inspector Luger). But it did at least show that all was not sunshine and roses outside of the clean, ordered gleaming interior of the starship Enterprise. There were still psychopaths in their midst.

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