I'm looking for help identifying a science fiction book that I read about 20 years ago - to do with space piracy.

A young man is kidnapped on his world and forced into being part of a pirate crew on a space ship.

Details I can remember: -

  1. The young man carries a Walther PP or PPK pistol constructed in his parents forge or foundry.
  2. The space ships have 'sails' that need to be set and reefed like a normal sailing ship.
  3. At one stage the young man is lost overboard and feared lost - until he returns and is considered a ghost.

The book started with a rather graphic torture scene - but I cannot remember how that fits in with the rest of the story.

I do remember that the cover showed a barrel shaped space ship with sails depicting a skull and crossbones.


HENRY MARTYN by L. Neil Smith

I haven't got around to read this book yet, but from what I know of it, this is almost certainly the one you're looking for. It has a boy kidnapped by pirates, opens with a torture scene, and the space pirate ship has sails.

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From a review on Tor.com:

The book opens as a young Henry Martyn is tortured into revealing everything he knows about his home planet, and then tortured to death for the entertainment of an unnamed evil villain

The discovery of something called §-physics has transformed industry and technology, permitting spaceships to neutralize inertia, enclose themselves in a breathable atmosphere, and spread sails made out of §-fields to catch the tachyon winds and move faster than light. Fighting is done using thrustibles on a personal level and projectibles between ships, weapons that both create a concussive force for attack, and a protective field for defense.

But after [the protagonist] distinguishes himself in battle with a corsair, going overboard to sabotage the enemy vessel, the captain leaves him drifting in space.

  • 11
    Yarrr! This be a fine find, Jim lad. – Valorum May 4 at 7:22
  • 4
    Presumably this is related to the song, one of the Child Ballads and famously recorded by Joan Baez: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Martin_(song). In the song three brothers draw lots to determine which one would turn robber, all on the salt sea, the salt sea... – alfvaen May 4 at 15:41
  • Yes - Henry Martyn by L. Neil Smith - thanks for your help guys! – Stephen May 11 at 5:46
  • @Stephen please click the checkmark next to this answer to indicate it is correct. – SQB May 11 at 6:31

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