Reviews: The Jupiter Pirates: The Hunt for the Hydra

The Jupiter Pirates: The Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry (HarperCollins, 2013)

Arrrrr!  Combine high seas style piracy with interplanetary science fiction and you get this lively space adventure of intrigue, daring and danger.

Summary:  Space privateering is a family affair for the Hashoone’s .  All three Hashoone siblings; Tycho, his twin sister Yana and older brother Carlos are part of the crew of the Shadow Comet–learning the ropes of running a spaceship and capturing enemy shippers for profit.  With a demanding mother as captain and a question of which child will ultimately be chosen as her successor, all three Hashoone children are anxious to perform well and impress their parents.  While Earth tries new tricks to keep captured freighters from becoming Jovian Union property,  Jovian merchant ships are going missing along the out perimeter . . . and no one knows what’s happened to them.  The Hashoone family has been assigned to investigate these mysterious disappearances in the asteroid belt, and to report back to the Union what they find.  Of course practically anything could be lurking out there, and the Shadow Comet crew must be prepared or they might just vanish too!  Tycho, Yana and Carlos will need to put aside their rivalry to see this mission through!

Thoughts: 

Author Jason Fry knows his way around outer space science fiction.  And when you’re writing an adventure story set in space, this is absolutely critical.  Outer space science fiction can be military, high adventure, western or –in this case–piratical, but what always sells it is the science fictional details and how the author uses them.  Fry drops readers right in the middle of events and doesn’t bother to explain or give you a tour guide approach to the setting.  Sailing terms combined with technical jargon allow the reader to get the flavor of the story (space pirates) while Tycho working on his math homework will instantly help readers to identify with our main character.  Rather than overdoing science fictional tech and filling the story with all sorts of gadgets and special abilities, the author works to create a believable future of space colonies and the people that inhabit them.  Rather than simply having the ship as a piece of scenery, the Shadow Comet becomes an essential element, almost a character in the story.  It’s easy to believe that the author has a clear idea exactly how he would build and maneuver such a ship, despite the futuristic nature.  A great high seas adventure will give you sailing details and make the reader feel the sea spray and see the rigging.  A great space adventure does the same thing, but with a space ship.

The characters are a great fun to read.  And I do mean fun (science fiction should be fun now and then.)  Tycho and his 2 sibs behave as any siblings might, but it’s nice to see that rather than one of them being extraordinarily gifted  (and obviously captain material) each one has their strengths and weaknesses on board the starship.  Despite a greater focus on Tycho, this mission is always a family adventure, and all the Hashoones are involved.  Their mom, Diocletia makes for a formidable captain  and mother and it’s  easy to imagine the younger Hashoone’s anxiety and interest in pleasing her.  The Hashoone Grandfather,  Huff is probably the most vivid character on board–his colorful piratical language, his absolutely unapologetic attitudes towards piracy, his past history during the wars.  Huff is cantankerous and unpredictable, but also clearly loves his family and displays a strong connection with his grandson, Tycho .  Rather than focus on a singular hero, the whole family takes part in the adventure and helps to win the day.  This ensemble cast –particularly a family ensemble cast– is pretty rare in space adventure.

The ships, planetary colonies and asteroids are all vivid and fleshed out to feel like real places rather than static scenery.  While I can’t fully vouch for the science of it all, the author appears to be making some effort to keep this futuristic well within the bounds of possible.  The numerous references to sailing lingo, along with more futuristic slang might intimidate a more reluctant reader, but the author never descends into painful technobabble.  And a glossary of terms is included at the back of the book for those who are curious.  Sailing, piracy, and privateering of course are hardly new ideas–but the great thing about encountering them here is that there’s a huge opportunity to link this work with actual nonfiction and historical references on these subjects.

If I have a particular complaint, it would have to be that the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been.  The story got off to a nice start, but the pause in the story for the family to attend a fancy party prior to their mission felt a little out of place, and I was eager to get back to the action aboard ship.  I also didn’t quite buy the fact that Tycho was the only one to “figure out” that slavers were involved in the disappearing  merchant vessels.  Readers are given some pretty obvious clues that the issue of slavers is going to come up, so it was a fairly obvious point for those reading along.

I want to reiterate that this was a great deal of fun to read.  I can’t wait to put it in the hands of some of my patrons.  This is the kind of stuff that will capture imaginations and provide readers with possibilities for our future that aren’t uniformly dark or oppressive.  It’s a delightfully accessible and vivid read and evidently just the beginning of our crew’s ongoing adventures!   I heartily welcome this marvelous space adventure to the shelves and can’t wait to read more!

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: December 2013

ISBN13:     9780062230201

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Don’t forget to check out The Jupiter Pirates website! Keep up with the news and get a sneak peak of the book, if you don’t have a copy to hand yet!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 16, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

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