I read a lot of Anne McCaffrey when I was younger, and some of her stuff is definitely for young adults, but I think she has some really interesting lesser known stories and this is one of them. This book is actually a collection of all the short stories about Helva (the ship who sang) named after the first short story. They flow fairly nicely if I remember correctly though, and I consider them basically a series.
Title: The Ship Who Sang
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Pages: 248 all told (paperback)
Setting: Far future in the same universe as other McCaffrey series since the grouping of settled planets that Pern is part of is in this universe. Basic space travel setting really except for the brain ships
Premise: Parents of severely physically handicapped babies can choose to have their children become part of the brain ships program where they are trained from childhood to control a space ship with their brains and then travel the galaxies on jobs for the company that loans them all the training to pay off their enormous debts. Helva is one such person who is also a fan of singing through her ship and goes on lots of adventures with her “brawns” who are plain old flesh and blood humans who help her out.
- Fun main character who just happens to be a brain in a ship
- Interesting twist on classic space adventure
- Short and easy to read
- Even after quite a few years I still remember Helva very fondly :-)
- Less memorable plot (since I certainly don’t really remember them)
- The premise is honestly a little bit creepy, I mean a human brain fused with a ship…
- The “brawns” (Helva’s companions) are not as well developed or memorable
- The stories have been criticized for locking away disabled children in ships and making them indentured servants to a company
Summary: While this collection might not be for everyone I found them enjoyable when I was younger and therefore they should be a quick and entertaining read. The stories also raise some interesting ethical questions about whether this sort of practice is a good or a bad thing, since it does enable people who would otherwise be unlikely to live on their own to travel the universe, but it also makes them indentured servants for the beginning of their lives unless they are quite lucky. Also because it is a collection of short stories that aren’t that strongly connected, it would be easy to set down and pick up again as you wished.