enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Searched

I read this book about 10-Jun-2004. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1992. This note was last modified Tuesday, 15-Jun-2004 23:14:13 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Boy, this is a mess. I read a volume called Brain Ships, actually. The volume is actually copyrighted 2003, but it consists of reprints of two previously-published books, both copyright 1992. And they're both collaborations. And the copyright is actually held by Bill Fawcett & Associates, suggesting it's a work-for-hire packaging deal, but why the hell would either Anne McCaffrey or Mercedes Lackey agree to that? So it probably isn't. So, whatever.

So anyway, this is by Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. I'm reading this because I found it on one of the Baen books free CDs. I read the first chapter, and the precocious child (Tia; short for Hypatia) really grabbed my attention, so I went ahead and read this book, and the other in the volume. Um, that's Partnership.

I'm a sucker for precocious children; particularly highly intellectual precocious children. Tia was right up my alley. Even if I do hate making nicknames out of letter sequences in the name, and then pronouncing them incompatibly. (Of course I'm just guessing how "Tia" is pronounced.)

She's the daughter of archaeologists, multiple-doctorate types (but that's just good enough to get them exploratory digs on new sites of unproved value). She can handle her own pressure suit, and even go out and play alone on the airless planet. She studies with the AI, and is ahead of her "class" in school. She can turn on the landing beacons and even the auto-landing support. And she's 7 years old. What's not to like?

I'm still a bit bothered that...wait a minute, I'd better do the setup. She does a "play dig", and finds something real. She recognizes it as real, but still takes a couple of artifacts out to show her parents, even though she's worried that exposure to the air in the dome will damage them. She needs to convince her parents she really has found something (good), but she knows the procedures for a real dig: nothing is taken out until it's been holographed and a casting made, because it's very likely to break. Also, there's talk of decontamination procedures, and she takes this artifact into the dome and never gets yelled at about that, either. She does think about the fact she has no way to record visuals—but why the hell not? It's a high-tech culture with lots of wireless communications and video screens, she damned well ought to have ways to record visuals. In fact her suit should have a surveillance camera going full time, along with the communications radio and the beacon that she can't turn off (child's suit).

Though it's never made explicit, I think that the virus she catches that paralyzes her (and gets her turned into a brainship) came from her mistake in decontamination procedures. But I don't believe she or anybody else ever actually thinks that, let alone says it.

Anyway, she does get turned into a brainship, and then has a series of adventures. The first couple, especially, remind me of the Murray Leinster Med Ship or the Alan E. Nourse Star Surgeon type of stories. They go somewhere interesting and rescue sick people, often just barely (or just some of them). Sometimes they get to smack idiots around for making things worse.

We never do really know how long the Laboratory Schools training is. I'd like to think it lasts a while. Hypatia is commanding a starship at the end of it, after all.

Still, they don't seem to have given her that much guidance in how to select her "brawn" (accompanying normal human). She picks the right one, of course, but the fact that the others were also picked by the psychs to be "right" for her suggests (as is also suggested in other stories and in the other book) that the psychs don't have their own heads on straight.

There are also some non-medical stories. They're all rather nice. Good stuff, fun to read.

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David Dyer-Bennet