cover image The Ship Avenged (Hardcover)

The Ship Avenged (Hardcover)

Anne McCaffrey, S. M. Stirling. Baen Books, $21 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-671-87766-8

Writing solo in this sequel to The City Who Fought (which he coauthored with Anne McCaffrey), Stirling (the Draka series) proves that the space-opera appeal of the Ship books continues even though the series' original concepts have long been subsumed by stories focusing on evil galactic overlords and deeds of technological derring-do. The earlier books (The Ship Who Sang, 1969, etc.) focused on the powerful emotional link between the human/machine hybrid ""brains"" of the eponymous spaceship and the counterpart ""brawn"" of her fully human pilots. Stirling's plot, however, keeps the previously established brain/brawn pairing of Channa Hap and Simeon offstage, instead concentrating on their adopted daughter, Joat Simeon-Hap, and her efforts to free Channa's lover, Amos ben Sierra Nueva, from the clutches of the evil Belazir t'Marid, War Lord of the Kolnar. Joat must also keep terrible bioengineered plagues from being unleashed on Bethel. Clever technological toys, cute AI programs and really nasty biochemical poisons abound, but several characters unbelievably fall in love. Stirling avoids writing confrontational scenes, leaving much of the important action to minor players while the main characters are unconscious or elsewhere. This is a surprisingly unsatisfactory read for those longing for personal revenge against abusive uncles and evil galactic overlords, but it does offer possibilities for many more sequels, if anyone wants them. (Feb.)