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Corsair
by James L. Cambias
Tor, Hardcover, $25.99, 336 pp
Published May 2015

After his acclaimed debut A Darkling Sea,(click here for review) James L. Cambias is one of the hottest names in sci-fi. And he delivers on that promise with his follow-up, the techno-thriller Corsair.

Set in the near future when international corporations are mining Helium gas on the moon to power fusion reactors on earth, Corsair is a tale of piracy, in many senses.

The novel follows David Schwartz, a genius hacker and anarchist who has used his computer skills to become “Captain Black the Space Pirate”. From his laptop in Thailand he is able to use satellites to steal the helium cargo from earthbound ships, making and spending billions on his freewheeling lifestyle.

He has a nemesis, however.

Elizabeth Santiago is an Air Force captain, and had a brief fling with David while she was a student at M.I.T. She is convinced that the infamous space pirate is her former lover, and is willing to do anything to catch him. But when her overzealous pursuit of Captain Black leads to the destruction of an expensive ship, without recovering the cargo, she is reassigned to an unrelated satellite development project.

In the meantime Anne Rogers is an Oklahoma gal fulfilling her dead father’s dream of a life at sea. The free-spirited woman seems like a character from a Jimmy Buffett song, tooling around the Gulf of Mexico in her yacht. She will also become entwined in the game of cat-and-mouse that Santiago and Schwartz are playing, both on Earth and in space.

While relaxing in a pirate-themed resort in Haiti, Schwartz is approached by the mysterious Colonel Ghavami, who recruits Schwartz for the biggest helium heist so far. Schwartz is whisked off to a mysterious location in Kazakhstan where he plans his piracy.

Meanwhile, Santiago is covertly designing a weapon system to mount on a satellite to fight David’s pirate ships.

The plot moves briskly in this taut page-turner, as Schwartz quickly realizes he is over his head, but his ego and quick-thinking won’t allow him to give up on his big score. Santiago has fallen for one of her coworkers, who is due to ship out to work the helium mine on the moon. Soon all their lives are weighing on a potential space catastrophe and oceanic chase.

Corsair has Hollywood written all over it.

And while it sometimes feels a bit cliché, Cambias keeps his story moving with just enough technobabble to sound plausible without becoming overbearing. There is not a wasted word or needless infodump within Corsair.

And while it doesn’t quite measure up to A Darkling Sea, Corsair shows that Cambias is a writer to be reckoned with. ~~ Michael Senft

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