In 2346, Jupiter and her moons have been colonized into the Jovian Union, and the Union has an uneasy truce with Earth. Jovians 12 year-old Tycho Hashoone and his family own and operate the privateer ship, the Shadow Comet – like legalized pirates, they can capture treasure from Earth-operated space ships. Their capture of one such space ship is more than they bargained for when it opens up a whole conspiracy.
There’s not a lot of science fiction for younger readers, and this is made extra appealing by smartly combining space travel with the conceit of arrrr-style pirates, using all the old nautical language and terms, detailed in a very through glossary.
The portrait of the family is well done. The somewhat unconventional switch of having the mother as the captain is nifty, and, even more out of the ordinary, the father takes a subordinate role. The three kids are nicely delineated (shades of The Expeditioners but not as nuanced) and their competition for the future captaincy provides some tension, and presumably a thread for the series. I found old Huff, the grandfather, a bit of a bore, but he does add color with his bionic body and rough language and manners.
I thought the plot was exciting, well thought through and executed, and the pacing is just right, with an exciting start, some exposition and then a thrilling climax, and – bonus! – it’s a complete story. The story is complex, though not onerously so, though the conspiracies and disguises didn’t feel particularly original. The writing is workmanlike and gets the job done of keeping the plot moving and shaping the not particularly nuanced characters.
However, the world building is pretty limited. Beyond the richly created pirate world, the rest seems fairly standard future stuff – pressure domes, lasers, artificial body parts and ‘mediapads’ which seem remarkably like iPads, though the character names are colorfully interesting, for example Mox Thoadbone, and Threece Suu. However, this could just be because this is the first book in the series, and having established the characters and the outline of the world, more can be filled out in later books.
One smallish grumble – I found the map at the front irritatingly unhelpful. I couldn’t find half the places mentioned, and several of the places on the map weren’t in the book.
Overall, I enjoyed The Jupiter Pirates a lot. It was a pretty swift and straightforward read, and I could see myself recommending it to a lot of younger readers.