Sassinak by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon (1990) Two writers for the price of one! Or, since it’s three novellas, six for the price of one?
This is an interesting read, mostly because of the first book (it’s split into three books). Sassy, or Sass, is a young colonial girl on a distant world who sees her family killed by slavers and is kidnapped, along with the other children. “Conditioned” to obey and kept under the worst conditions, the children are sold as slaves based on their knowledge and stamina. Sass has both of those in great abundance, and when she’s befriended by an older slave named Abe, he teaches her what he learned while in the Fleet, the crisp, military space force that should have been defending her colony.
When Sassy is torn from Abe and sold into pilot training, the smuggling ship she’s bought by is captured by – you guessed it – the Fleet, and using information Abe gave her, the space police are able to find and free Abe and his fellow slaves. He’s so grateful, he adopts her, and they live happily ever after.
Not really, but that’s Book One and it’s pretty interesting. Sassy, on the other hand, seems to be a lucky victim through all this, and because she met Obiwan, I mean Abe, she survives. Her only flaw seems to be righteous anger which she manages to squelch pretty effectively.
Then we jump to Book Two. Sassy is in the Fleet Academy and gets assigned as an ensign to a cruiser based on her high scores and her ability to take emotional abuse without batting an eyelash. In between, someone kills poor Abe and accompanies Sassy onto the cruiser, knocks her in the head, and dumps her in an escape pod. This allows her friends, some of them aliens, to rescue her. The bad guy kills himself. She doesn’t do much but knows somewhere there’s a Big Bad who killed her mentor, and she won’t rest until she finds him.
Or makes captain. That brings us to Book Three where she’s the captain of her own cruiser, again using her ability to meld her xenophobic crew into a secret weapon against the slavers. I really didn’t mind the jumps in her age until this book. Here, she and her friends all mention adventures they’ve had between the time she was an ensign and when she became captain. Some of them sound exciting, and I’m sorry I missed them.
She, of course, becomes a terror to the slavers, using the best technology the Fleet has available and the most cohesive crew imaginable while battling a turncoat on her crew. If she gets in trouble (at one point she lets the slavers blast their way into her ship so she can gun them down in the cargo bay), the Fleet always forgives her.
I know this sounds like a Mary Sue story in which the writer makes themselves a superhero, sometimes against all odds, and I think if old Sassy had a few more character flaws, she’d be a little more believable. She’s interesting and probably what I’d want my captain to be like, but she doesn’t seem very real. I didn’t worry about her as much as I should have.
For some serious space opera and lessons on everyone getting along together, I’d recommend this book, but I don’t know if I’ll read more Sassy stories. Give me someone with some baggage they didn’t overcome so easily.