Geoffrey A. Landis. Marya and the Pirate. (Asimovs Jan 2010)

Drama and intrigue in Earth orbit. Domingo Bonaventura is executing a very risky act of piracy – using a thin sheet of glass to evade detection and sneak up on a cargo tug taking a huge chunk of comet ice towards Earth. He’s gone to considerable lengths to carry out this act, and appears to have little concern for the crewmember whose tug he opens to the vacuum of space. However, all is not as it seems. The one man crew on the tug is a woman, a young woman at that, and in fact Domingo was planning to utilise his not insubstantial expertise in saving families and friends from vacuum to ensure that he did not murder the crew member.

The pirate and his hostage spend some time in the close confines of the tug as they approach Earth orbit, during which time we find out more about Bonaventure and the risks he and his kind have
been taking in trying to eke out a living in space, and the costs that have to be paid – and through which he becomes a more complex character.

His plan is to slingshot the captured cargo into deep space, to be of use to his community, but an unforseen technical problem nixes this, and suddenly we are into a life and death struggle to avoid burning up in space. The sudden threat to their imminent demise throws the couple together, but after the coupling, they work together to effect the technical solution to their problems.

And in a neat touch, as the two separate, we find out even more about Marya, and the struggles she faces to earn a living, and the risks she is taking.

It’s a neat story, rising above a simple ‘what is the technical solution to get out of the problem they face’ (that is often set out in the opening paragraphs of many stories), putting two characters in close proximity,and provding a reasonable depth of background, after which the reader is more engaged with the drama and its resolution.

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