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Corsair: A Science Fiction Novel by James L.…
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Corsair: A Science Fiction Novel

by James L. Cambias

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ABR's full Corsair audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

It is approximately fifteen years in the future and the moon is being mined for its helium to fuel the world’s fusion reactors. The payloads coming back to earth are worth billions; attracting the interest of pirates who try to intercept them. David Schwartz , AKA Captain Black, the space pirate, is a computer genius and hacker, using his skills and lack of morals to hijack these flying treasure chests. He is brilliant, elusive, charming in an annoying way, equally wanted by the police for his crimes and by the crime syndicates for his skills.

That’s the basic plot/theme, straight forward and linear. Though predictable, it doesn’t really matter, this story is about the many quirky characters, and most importantly, Captain Black, the space pirate. The author uses his full moniker over and over, “Captain Black, the space pirate; Captain Black, the space pirate,” which at first annoys the listener, then numbs him, then reveals the actual intent – humor. And if you go into this book with a sense of humor, you will be OK, if not, you will want to rip your eardrums out. There is no middle ground.

The characters are more like caricatures: Captain Black is a genius nerd, brilliant, sarcastic and supremely annoying; yet he somehow always gets the babe, whether she is the dumb blonde or the smart scientist. Elizabeth, the military scientist, is also brilliant with everything going for her, including a skyrocketing career; yet is strangely attracted to the destructive David Schwartz (Captain Black), then hates him. The corporate eunuchs, on the other hand, shrug as their billion dollar payloads disappear, far more worried about a lawsuit than the money they should be making. Equally impotent are the military and police forces of the world, unwilling or unable to do much more than watch as the world’s power supply gets hijacked over and over. In one scene, a single police officer on a bicycle (yes, plastic helmet and bike shorts) attempts to intercept a vicious assassin in a cafe shootout.

If taken as a kind of super nerd, spy satire, it’s pretty funny and will hold your interest throughout. The science is well researched and rings true. Many of the scenes are inventive and painted realistically enough for your imagination to take over. The several chase and action scenes should hold your attention too. There is some violence, but it is superficial, without gruesome details.

Victor Bevine reads the story well, moving quickly during the action and slowing down during the descriptive scenes. His voice is clear and his characters are generally easy to discern. Overall, Bevine is competent and skillful without ever getting in the way of the story.

If you know what you are going into (humorous high tech satire) you should enjoy the story. It is also recommended for young adults and older teens who like computer hacking adventures. Don’t get caught up in the obvious contradictions and unlikely character interactions and you should have a fun and light read/listen.

Audiobook provided for for review by the publisher. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Jun 8, 2015 |
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2015/05/19/audiobook-review-corsair-by-james-camb...

Corsair is a thrilling and fun adventure full of space pirates and hackers, the kind of book that grabs you and holds you down (willingly) until it is all told. This book is pretty short, but it’s an addictive “page turner” that finished before I knew it. I say “page turner” in quotes because in actuality, I listened to this one as an audiobook so there were no actual pages involved. But I am really happy I did. There are some books that are just very well suited for audiobooks, and this was certainly one of them. The story and names are all very easy to follow while listening and the narration was very good, relaying the story clearly without ever becoming the focus of the listener (meaning, I heard the story well told). The style of Corsair reminds me a bit of Scalzi or Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, but with this book, most (if not just about all) of the story is set here on earth rather than in space.

David Schwartz and Elizabeth Santiago meet while taking classes at MIT in the not so distant future. They are both incredibly bright, but incredibly different. David is a bit “creative” or “generous” with his moral compass, and Elizabeth is pretty much a straight shooter. So not surprisingly, their courses in life diverge soon after meeting.

Fast forward 10 years, we find Elizabeth entered the military and is now working to fight space piracy and David has continued his less than legal approach to life. And it appears he has done quite well for himself. Their paths meet again as they both get pulled in to a nefarious plot for the ultimate space piracy. I knew it would happen, based on the initial meeting (and the blurb), but I really enjoyed seeing how they were brought together again in different ways (form different sides) by this plot.

I like David, he’s just a fun, care-free type of guy. The kind of character that just amuses me and is hard for me to not like. He’s certainly not perfect, as any law enforcement official could tell you, and he could stand to give other people a bit more consideration instead of always thinking of himself. But I can’t help it, I still like him, as egotistical as he may be. Elizabeth is set on doing the “right” thing, even when that may not match procedure (she wound up working for the military with a focus on fighting space piracy). There’s an interesting look into the politics involved, and how sometimes the procedurally correct thing may not be the “right” thing overall. I know that’s not a new idea, but I still enjoy it and the conflict it can create. As different as these two characters are, I found myself rooting for both of them, which can be fun when they may or may not want the same thing.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read, full of action and suspense with touches of humor. ( )
  tenaciousreader | May 26, 2015 |
I’m actually surprised at all middling ratings I’ve seen for Corsair, because I personally had a really good time with it. Maybe this is just one of those books that work better as an audiobook, the format I reviewed. I do seem to have much better luck listening to rather than reading science fiction novels that have a lot of technical jargon (an example I can think of is Andy Weir’s The Martian, which I ended up loving) so that might be a factor.

Still, all the same I found Corsair and its story of hackers, pirates, and space travel to be a hell lot of fun and relentlessly addictive.

Because, come on. SPACE PIRATES.

Our story follows the lives of two former friends who first crossed paths at MIT in the early 2020s. Elizabeth has a penchant for all things related to technology and space travel, studying to pursue her dreams of one day joining the Air Force after graduation. David Schwartz on the other hand is a brilliant hacker, whose transgressions gradually escalate from harmless pranks to more serious crimes. Too different to remain together, the two of them eventually part ways.

Skip forward to ten years later. One has become a high level intelligence officer, monitoring the activity of shipments to and from the moon to prevent space piracy and theft of the precious Helium3 mined there. The other has made a name for himself too by adopting his new cyber alias of Captain Black, Space Pirate to hack into military and mining operations systems, resulting in billions lost from stolen cargo. Elizabeth and David are locked in a battle of wits, and though neither of them can be sure of the other’s identity, both have their suspicions. Very soon, they will have their confrontation and ultimately might even end up on the same side again.

Fast, thrilling and entertaining, I’ve heard that Corsair is a lighter and more high-spirited offering from James L. Cambias compared to his previous work. This is my first book by him so I can’t judge, but certainly there were several points in here, particularly in the dialogue, which made me laugh out loud. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see a bit of humor in this, and yet I can’t deny these little spikes of levity worked very well especially when they relieved the pressure in very tense moments.

The characters’ personalities also feel very genuine, and here perhaps the narrator deserves some kudos too. Victor Bevine injects the required charisma in his voice to bring them to life, making each person sound natural and like themselves. Elizabeth comes across as very straight-laced and technical, but easy to be around. David on the other hand is bombastic and bizarre, slightly tinged with that social awkwardness we’ve been led us to associate with genius. At the same time, the two of them are not static protagonists, even after both of them set off on their expected career paths. Ten years is a long time for people to change, and I love how Cambias decided to tackle Elizabeth and David’s Criminal vs. Law Enforcer dynamic, which is definitely not typical. It’s difficult to go into this without revealing more details and possible spoilers for the story, but suffice to say both character experience significant life changes that motivate them to see and do certain things differently than you’d expect, and the author makes it all sufficiently convincing.

Too much hard sci-fi generally turns me off so I was glad Corsair wasn’t too heavy on these elements, and yet neither was the story a cheap, throwaway experience. Simply put, I found this book to be just the right balance of sophisticated science fiction mixed with healthy dose of campiness and full-on thrills. After some of the reviews I’ve seen for this, I had my reservations, but I ended up liking this more than I expected. I’d like to check out the author’s other book now; even if it doesn’t strike the same tone, I would be curious to see if The Darkling Sea will grab me the same way. ( )
1 vote stefferoo | May 25, 2015 |
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