21 SF/F Authors Project, Book 8: The Ship Who Sang

Books & Mags

Reading on, this time The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey. It’s really a collection of a five stories published 1961 to 1969 and put together into one opus with an entirely new final story in 1969.

21 Authors The Ship Who Sang

The protagonist is Helva, a brainship. Brainships are essentially cyborgs: human babies with severe physical disabilities are educated and prepared for a life with machine interfacing and their bodies then permanently inserted into spaceships. Brainships are able to operate on their own, but they’re usually assigned or asked to choose a mobile half. These “brawns” team up with their brainships for various missions but don’t control or fly the ship.

The Ship Who Sang is from the era when alternatives to tapes to store digital information were apparently unfathomable, which in my mind clashes terribly with the ability to connect human brains with computer circuitry. Nevertheless, like The Time Traders, The Ship Who Sang was a good romp reading experience. I found the concept of “Dramatic Mission” especially intriguing. The story is about trading Shakespeare to highly skilled alien energy engineers living on a methane-ammonia gas giant with no prior concept of theatrical performances. The Beta Corviki’s ability to transfer the human consciousnesses into Corviki bodies for the duration of their playacting reminds me of downloading minds into physical “sleeves” in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs books. McCaffrey’s is now the earliest example of that idea I know. 🙂

Otherwise, even though I normally prefer long fiction over short stories, in this case I didn’t mind – the book reads more like a novel with six reaaally long chapters than a collection of short stories. I might have to look into McCaffrey’s Pern books, too!

P.S. Find all posts in the project with the 21 authors tag.

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