Murray Leinster's "The Pirates of Zan" aka "The Pirates of Ersatz" (novel, space opera, free): A young man's struggle to up his social station
This very readable story is a study in extremes - a super-competent young man (confused only in matters of romance), a super-farcical persecution of an individual by a sick government, an ugly feudal society that offers much scope for old-fashioned adventure, ...
Alternate title - "The Pirates of Ersatz" - is a fancy way of saying "The False Pirates".
Story summary.This is the story of a young man named Bron Hoddan. A genius, including in matters of machinery. Daring, brave, do-gooder, ...
He was born on a poor world called Zan, where the primary economic activity is space piracy! His grandfather is a competent pirate, & will play a role later in the story.
But Bron wants a better life. Takes much trouble to migrate to Walden, a super rich world that also happens to be utterly static & decaying. Bron's attempts to earn a decent living will get him into serious trouble with authorities that don't like change, & he will be barely able to escape with his skin.
Walden is also home to Nedda, a girl Bron thinks of as his girlfriend. He will have much heartache on her account through the story.
Bron's next stop is the feudal world called Darth. There will be much adventure here: Fighting the customs officials looting his baggage on arrival. Taking over spaceport control room to charge his electric-powered guns! Need of Don Loris - His feudal employer - to hang him on arrival! Rescue of Fani - his employer's daughter - after her kidnapping, & their subsequent romantic entanglement.
Third series of episodes begins with his escape from Darth because his employer has struck a deal with Walden officials to trade him. I found the Walden cops kind of too zealous over nothing, but that's a minor matter.
He will meet a planet's worth of refugees who have been thrown out of their own world ("Colin") by ruthless colonials, & are now headed to colonize a new virgin world called Thetis - only these colonists have no will power left. Bron will not only help them gain self respect, but will play Robin Hood to gather some resources for them by becoming a pirate.
The piracy episodes near end are farcical but great fun. And his gentle heart's longing to compensate those he looted will turn Bron quickly into a major business magnate - through logic that was a bit too good for me to take seriously.
All ends well - including Bron's twin romantic entanglements - with Nedda & Fani.
Fact sheet.First published: As a 3-part serial in Astounding Science Fiction, February/March/April 1959, under the title "The Pirates of Ersatz".
Download full text from Webscription/Project Gutenberg/Manybooks/Feedbooks.
Nominated for Hugo Award 1960 in novel category.
Listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: All stories of Murray Leinster.