The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry, 241 pp, RL: 4

Jason Fry is the author of Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra, a fantastic new book and a rare addition to the underrepresented (in my opinion) genre of science fiction middle grade novels - with brilliant cover art by Tom Lintern. Besides being kind of uncommon in kid's books, science fiction is a a little bit outside of my comfort zone when it comes to reading. But, Treasure Planet is one of my favorite Disney movies and I did review Treasure Island and Silver: Return to Treasure Island last year, so I decided to give Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra, which has a touch of the traditional swashbuckler to it, a try. My decision was cemented when I learned that Jason Fry is author of over twenty books, many of which are part of the canon of Star Wars books, AND that several of Fry's books are part of a genre my sons and I love that could be called "non-fiction fiction." Fry's books like Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Visual GuideThe Secret Life of Droids and Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary employ a field guide format and/or similar reference book style of presenting fictional people, places and things in a realistic way. With this kind of background and experience, I figured Fry must be the perfect person to write a middle grade science fiction novel like Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra, and he is!

To read the first five chapters of 
Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra click HERE.

The year is 2893 AD and the hero of Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra is Tycho Hashoone (the character names in this book are fantastic), the twelve-year-old midshipman of his family's starship, the Shadow Comet. The Hashoones are natives of the Jovian Union, which declared its independence from Earth in 2590 and has fought several wars with Earth since then. Tycho's mother Diocletia is the captain of the Shadow Comet, his father, Marvy Malone is the first mate and his older brother Carlo and twin sister Yana are also both midshipmen. Then there's Huff Hashoone, former captain of the Comet, father to Diocletia and an old-school pirate with several artificial limbs making him sort of a cyborg Long John Silver. The Hashoones make a living privateering, although Huff considers what they do not too different from being a pirate. While manning the helm in the middle of the night, Tyhco commandeers an Orion starship, a decision that sets in motion a chain of events that leads to an appearance in admiralty court, undercover work for that is just shy of blackmail and a suspenseful fight with a long-lost pirate ship captained by the legendary, supposedly dead, Thoadbone Mox.

Art by Jeff Nentrup

Fry adds layers to Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra through the backstory of the Hashoones, which I suspect will evolve in subsequent novels in this five, possibly six, book series. The pirate way means that Diocletia will choose the next captain of the Shadow Comet from among her three children just as her father did some eleven years earlier when he stepped down as captain. Besides the fact that there's a story behind how Diocletia became captain, Tycho, Yana and Carlos are growing up under constant scrutiny from their captain as she watches their skills develop and calculates which of her three children will make the best future captain. All three want the position badly and all three have different skills. What makes Tycho an interesting character is the fact that, despite his desire to be captain, he knows his weaknesses and he knows when to rely on his siblings and their superior skills in certain areas. He and his twin Yana make an especially good team with Yana thinking outside the box and taking risks where Tycho is a steady hand, learning to trust himself and grow his confidence. Of his protagonist Fry says, "Tycho isn't fated to save the solar system or discover some kind of hidden secret of his birth. I'm more interested in exploring what I think is a more typical hero's journey - as he grows older, Tycho will wonder if the goals of his childhood and his family traditions are really right for him. He'll become obsessed with solving things that might be better left alone. And he'll wind up in a very different place, and look back with some surprise a the journey he's been on." We see glimmers of this future in  Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra and I can't wait to see how Tycho grows across the series.

Art by Jeff Nentrup

Fry's world building is so immediate and descriptively thorough that, with the help of having seen a few sci-fi movies and read a few sci-fi "non-fiction fiction" books, images of everything described in Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra came to my mind instantly. In addition to Fry's skill as a writer, the book begins with a schematic of the Shadow Comet and a map of Jupiter and its moons and ends with an index - two things I absolutely love in a book. One detail I love in this Jovian world is that, instead of flying a Jolly Roger or other flag, the ships in Fry's space have transponders that signal their purpose to other ships, transponders that can broadcast false identities. Fry's descriptions of the locales the Hashoones visit are also memorable, like that of the family's homestead on the moon of Callisto, built around the mine shaft that made them wealthy over four centuries ago when they first settled there after leaving Earth. Then there's High Port, which Fry describes as a:

cluster of habitation modules orbiting Ganymede. The space station's largest dome had been converted to a luxurious reception hall for the Jovian Union's notable visitors. One side of the hall was dominated by the massive radiation-shielded windows that looked out over the cratered surface of the moon below and beyond to Jupiter. The gas giant had rotated so that huge storm known as the Great Red Spot was visible. It stared out at them like a baleful eye, churning through Jupiter's upper atmosphere as it had for more than a thousand years. 

The surface of Ceres is described as a "maze of tunnels and pressure domes filled with merchant warehouses, provisioning yards, hydroponic greenhouses, repair shops, kips, eateries, and grog houses, advertising their wares with everything from 3D holographic displays to ancient neon tubes." And the starships, for the most part, are described using traditional language (stern, mast, cuddy, bilge, all of which are defined in the index) although they do have, "bulky, long-range fuel tanks" that are left high in orbit while ships are in port, meaning that "every planet in the solar system wore a permanent necklace made up of bulbous tanks, lumbering fuel tankers, and gunboats on patrol." That's some pretty cool imagery!

Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra has been described as a "space-opera in the classic style,"  "Ranger's Apprentice meets Ender's Game," and "Star Wars meets Treasure Island," all of which are apt. However you choose to describe it, Jason Fry has kicked of a great new series that I know will grab the attention of starship-loads of readers!

To read the first five chapters of 
Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra click HERE.

Jason Fry, immortalized in Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, which he cowrote with Daniel Wallace.

Source: Review Copy

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