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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Ship Who Saved the Worlds by Anne McCaffrey and Jody Lynn Nye. Riverdale, NY: Baen Publishing Enterprises; New York: Distributed by Simon & Schuster, 2003. ISBN: 0743471717.

Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who . . . " novels, stories and collaborations are invariably charming adventure-style science fiction whose only significant flaw is a tendency to lapse into bouts of cutesy or even maudlin dialogue from time to time. And a tendency towards plot lines that are a little too predictable. But all in all, these are good rousing space opera stories that are genuinely entertaining, and incidentally, wrapped around a unique twist.

One of the subject headings for these stories in my library's online catalog is "People with Disabilities—Fiction" because the primary character of each story is what the author calls a "brainship," in which a human being whose body is so flawed as to be useless, but whose brain is perfectly normal, is fitted through long years of training and surgery to be the "brains" of a spaceship. The entire ship—engines, sensors, electrical system—all of it, becomes a literal extension of the "shell person," as these individuals are known. Direct physical connections are made between the human brain and the ship components, so that the brainship is able to flex its engines like muscles, and manipulate all of the ship functions just like a real person would control his or her eyes, ears, legs and arms, etc.

Each brainship eventually adopts a "brawn," a normal human partner, usually of the opposite sex, who travels with the ship, and acts as mobile partner, interacting with people or aliens they encounter along the way.

The Ship Who Won focuses on a brainship and partner who frequently explore unknown regions of space, looking for intelligent life. In this case, they stumble on to a world where magic seems to work. A neat trick, to have real magic in a scientific universe, almost making for a kind of fantasy/scifi crossover, of but of course a logical explanation is eventually found.

Here is a list of the ship books I'm aware of, in the order of their publication, although you certainly don't have to read them in order; they stand alone quite nicely. It probably would help to read original example, The Ship Who Sang first, as it provides the best introduction to the concept. Eventually McCaffrey wrote several of these books in partnership with other writers, and has even allowed them to write some on their own.
  • The Ship Who Sang (1969), a series of short stories all featuring the original brainship.
  • PartnerShip (1992) with Margaret Ball
  • The Ship Who Searched (1992) with Mercedes Lackey
  • The Ship Who Fought (1993) with S.M. Stirling
  • The Ship Who Won (1994) with Jody Lynn Nye
  • The Ship Errant (1996) by Jody Lynn Nye, sequel to The Ship Who Won
  • The Ship Avenged (1997) by S.M. Stirling. sequel to The Ship Who Fought
Collections:

  • The Ship Who Saved the Worlds (2003, contains The Ship Who Won and The Ship Errant)
  • The City and the Ship (2004, contains The Ship Who Fought and The Ship Avenged)

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