Monday, April 6, 2015

The Ship Who Sang

The Ship Who SangThe Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great piece of classic science fiction, that holds up very well today, and doesn't feel dated or archaic. The book is a series of short stories (which can be considered longish chapters) that tell the story of Helva, a girl who was born severely physically deformed. In the time of the book (far future, with faster-than-life travel between planets) such babies were tested for brain functions, and if they passed, the babies were raised to become implanted into ships, cities or other complex entities, where they would serve as the "brains" of said entity. In the case of Helva, she was implanted into a ship. As such, her sensory inputs are from the ship, and her "movement" is that of the ship. All such "brain ships" are paired with an able-bodied human, called a "brawn," to perform activities that the ship cannot do. People embedded like this have protected rights, and basically work off the cost of their training and embedding by performing assignments for the government.

The stories in this book begin with Helva's birth and training (though briefly), her various pairings with brawns, and several different missions. Helva learned to enjoy music during her years of training, and develops her singing voice(s) with her first brawn. She gets quite a reputation, as "the ship who sings" - hence the title of the book.

All of the stories are quite interesting, exploring different worlds and/or different facets of the brain/brawn partnership. Through it all, Helva strives to be true to her own values, and also seeks to earn enough money to pay off her debts and become a free contractor. The science of how the ships work is only lightly touched on - these stories are more focused on the character of Helva and the society in which she lives and works. It is quite refreshing to read a work from this era (1969) where there is a strong female character. I'm sure it was quite ground-breaking at the time. Overall, this is a fun, mostly light, adventure story, with a great central character. I definitely recommend it!

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