Today's book review is Starship: Pirate by Mike Resnick.
Very much a continuation of Starship: Mutiny. A lot of fast action, some literary allusions that I don't get (being a philistine who's never read Dickens), amusing, very short on cosmic significance or deep inner meaning. 7 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
We start out with the senior crew (being defined as Captain Cole, First Officer Forrice, and Security Chief/Captain's lover Sharon Blacksmith) having a discussion over the moral dilemma of being pirates when they don't want to be evil. Cole convinces them that they should try to entrap a real pirate to plunder them, and steal their booty. So they pretend to disable the Teddy R and send a distress signal, and they get a real pirate. The pirate has a pretty small crew, and after they frag the landing party by cutting the gravity and air in the elevator they're using, they board the pirate. Two of their guys are killed and one seriously wounded; they take one prisoner, a kid called Esteban Morales, who decides to join them. And they take the pirates' booty: a load of large uncut diamonds and some hot jewelry. Then they find a fence, an alien who calls himself David Copperfield. Cole ingratiates himself with Copperfield by calling himself Steerforth, but despite the fact that the two seem to have made friends, he's quite unsatisfied with what Copperfield will offer for the diamonds. Copperfield explains that the diamonds are pretty hot too; they're unique to the world where they're mined, and a shipment of this size was recently stolen. Cole then tries to extort insurance companies. He's successful with the insurer of the diamonds, but when he tries it again with the ruby tiara taken from the murdered opera diva, the agent tries to double-cross him and Cole narrowly escapes with his loot and no payment. They land on a random world, too small to have traffic control, and in a random bar, meet a most unrandom individual. She's 6'6", able to take out just about anything in hand to hand combat, and a pirate captain, except that her crew stole her ship out from under her when she got drunk. Cole calls her a Valkyrie and after he explains what that is, she takes it as her name. He recruits her and installs her as third officer, over the strident objections of the other senior crew, but because he's the hero, his judgment is sound, and she is able to win over the rest of the crew. She's only there until they can track down her own ship (Pegasus, which has been taken over by an alien known as the Hammerhead Shark, who is apparently 8 feet tall, 6 feet wide, telepathic, implacable, vicious, and dumb. Pegasus raided the base of another pirate, Muscatel, taking out one of his 4 ships. And now the other three are chasing the Pegasus, or perhaps the Pegasus is chasing them. In the battle, Pegasus destroys the 3 Muscatel ships, Teddy R disables Pegasus, and they land on an uninhabited airless world. Val challenges the Hammerhead to single combat, winner to take Pegasus and booty. The Hammerhead turns it around, demanding he face Cole instead. Cole accepts, but after they leave their ships, Val intimidates the other Pegasus crew into moving Pegasus a few hundred miles away, and the Cole hops back in his shuttle and maroons the Hammerhead. The battle happened in Copperfield's system, and now Copperfield (who's amazingly spineless for a master criminal) is sure that other pirates are going to come track him down, and demands that Cole rescue him, his people, and his precious collection of Dickens first editions. Cole is in a deep brown study about the unsatisfying nature of the pirate existence, but Copperfield convinces him that instead of being a pirate, he should be a mercenary, and that with Copperfield as his agent, they'll do very well.