My first review of the new year! I’ll be starting things off with a science fiction novel published in October 2017. I came across this title in a Tor Publishing newsletter a few months back and bumped it up towards the top of my reading list after finding the initial reviews intriguing.
Barbary Station is the story of two aspiring engineers, Adda Karpe and her girlfriend Iridian Nassir. Faced with an abysmal job market and the prospects of soul-sucking corporate contracts they make a rather unconventional career choice and decide to become space pirates. Fortunately for them, Adda’s brother Pel just so happens to be a member of the most famous and prosperous pirate crew in the solar system. With him as their contact, the couple hijacks a colony ship and triumphantly sets off for Barbary Station, an abandoned space station that serves as home base for the pirates. Upon arrival, however, they quickly realize that pirate life is not be as glamorous as they thought. Instead of lounging in luxury suites, the pirates instead live as squatters desperately trying to avoid the wrath of aegiSKADA; the station’s unpredictable and ruthless security AI that is determined to wipe out any uninvited guests.
I had mixed feelings about the novel. The story had a great premise: the AI was an intriguing adversary and there was definitely enough suspense to keep things interesting. Adda and Iridian were also quite likeable, although I favored Adda on account of her dogged aversion to people and psychedelic approach to computer hacking. Additionally, I found it refreshing to have someone other than a straight white dude as the lead in a Science Fiction novel (the book has received quite a bit of praise for including gay women of color as protagonists).
I think where this book stumbled a bit was in failing to live up to its lofty potential in terms of both story and characters. I found the author’s writing style a bit hard to follow at times and often had trouble following action sequences or visualizing certain scenes; both things that definitely prevented me from getting as into this as I could have. The story also felt rather superficial at times and I found myself wishing it would have dug deeper into the world and the other people around our heroines. It often felt like Adda and Iridian were the only sufficiently developed characters and that everyone else existed only to either fill space or provide those two with other people to interact with. I didn’t really get a good sense of who any of the other characters were or how they fit into the dynamics of the group they were a part of.
All that considered I would rate my experience with this book as a positive one, though not without some hiccups. I’d say this is worth checking out, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping everything to do so.