“Sassinak” is one of Anne McCaffrey’s lesser-known novels. It is co-written by Elizabeth Moon. I had never even heard of it before I came across it at a used bookstore, but hey, there were space pirates. What’s not to love about that?
The book tells the story of Sassinak, who becomes orphaned as a child after space pirates raid her colony. She is sold into slavery, where she meets a man named Abe who tells her about Fleet and the values for which it stands. When she is finally rescued, she decides to enlist and dedicates her life to fighting the space pirates in order to prevent other children from suffering her own childhood fate.
I enjoyed the premise of this book a lot (even though my boyfriend claims that the story is basically Metroid, which I unfortunately have never had the occasion to play). At the same time, the execution could have been a lot better. The pacing felt a bit rushed; Sassinak was orphaned, sold into slavery, and then rescued in the space of less than thirty pages. I wanted to spend more time watching events unfold and learning more about Sassinak’s thoughts throughout her adventures, and I wanted to spend a bit more time being introduced to the minor characters. I had to do a couple doubletakes because characters were introduced so quickly that I barely remembered who they were.
I did love Sassinak as a heroine. One of McCaffrey’s greatest strengths is creating strong female characters who are career-minded and competent. Even while she’s in captivity, Sassinak manages to learn and excel at science and engineering. She becomes a skilled pilot, and once she joins Fleet she quickly moves up in the ranks to become a Commander. It was also pretty cool that the bulk of the action of the story took place when Sassinak was in her 40s.
Overall, Anne McCaffrey’s other books are a lot better. At the same time, if you enjoy space pirates, dinosaurs, and kickass female heroines, then you might enjoy “Sassinak” despite its shortcomings.