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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The City and the Ship by McCaffrey and Stirling

The City and the Ship by Anne McCaffrey and S.M. Stirling. Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2004. ISBN: 0-7434-7189-X

This omnibus volume contains two complete novels: The City Who Fought (originally published in 1993) by McCaffrey and Stirling, and its sequel, The Ship Avenged (copyright 1997), by Stirling alone.

The story revolves around one of McCaffrey's brain-case people who are the stars of all "The Ship Who" stories. Except that instead of a ship who, we have a city who. This time the shell person, as they're called, is the brain that runs a space station, a virtual city, but not a ship. The reason space stations are called stations is because they are stationary, as one character points out to another in the story.

The City Who Fought starts out seeming to be about a conflict between Simeon, the shell person, and his new "brawn," Channa. Simeon resents Channa being assigned to him, having not resigned himself to the loss of his original brawn due to old age and retirement. But this minor subplot is quickly subsumed by the main story involving an attack on the station by a race of supermen called the Kolnari, originally convicts dumped on a radioactive planet, who have mutated and evolved into extremely powerful, physically superior, but short-lived ego-maniacs striving for universal domination over regular humanity, who they refer to as "scum-vermin." Low in numbers, they are currently forced to exist as pirates, normally keeping to the non-explored byways of interstellar space.

Another subplot involves Joat, a castaway orphan just entering her teens, who has been unofficially living on the station, hiding in the ductwork and other inaccessible places. A mechanical and electronics whiz, she is found and adopted by Simeon and Channa, who finally find something they can agree on: rehabilitating Joat.

Joat becomes the main character of the sequel volume, now older, and just barely owner of her own small spaceship. She naturally gets involved with the Kolnari again, but rest assured of the inevitable happy ending. Good generic space opera, but don't expect anything unexpected. Recommended for McCaffrey or Stirling fans.

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