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The Ship Avenged    by S. M. Stirling order for
Ship Avenged
by S. M. Stirling
Order:  USA  Can
Baen, 1998 (1997)
Hardcover, Paperback
*   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

The Ship Avenged is a sequel to The City Who Fought, co-authored by Anne McCaffrey and S. M. Stirling. As frequently happens, the sequel is inferior to the original. In McCaffrey's universe, medical technology has advanced to the point that severely disabled or injured people, who could not be saved by medical science, can survive, even succeed brilliantly as 'shell-persons'. Encased in special metal cocoons, they are connected via delicate and sophisticated procedures to systems appropriate to their talents, such as spaceships or space stations.

In this sequel by Stirling, Joat is owner and captain of a small state-of-the-art spaceship, earning a precarious living by transporting cargo. Hers is not a brainship but one run by an advanced A.I. named Rand. In The City Who Fought Joat survived a vicious attack by the Kolnar. In this sequel, she must face the Kolnar again, specifically Warlord Belazir t'Marid. The Kolnar are a mutated strain of humanity, who developed on an incredibly hostile world. In response to their harsh environment, they became ruthless predators. Their culture is based on unrelenting competition; any weakness is punished by death, and they see all other humans as prey. Belazir is nearly insane in his hatred and desire for revenge, as his defeat at the hands of 'scumvermin' humans has made him an object of scorn to the Kolnar. He plans to spread a deadly plague throughout the galaxy in revenge for that earlier defeat.

Joat is an interesting personality, as are the characters in both novels. The young woman's fierce independence and courage helped her survive a bleak childhood as well as the harrowing Kolnar attack in City. However, the plot is curiously flat; Belazir himself seems ineffectual, posturing and mouthing threats but failing to carry out his grand design. Perhaps this is due to his physical condition. He is an aged caricature, for the Kolnar grow old much faster than the human norm. In the end, Joat and her allies foil Belazir's plot, rescuing the warlord's hated enemy from under his very nose. In truth, he loses on more than one level since his own son, whom he already despises for unKolnar softness, falls in love with a scumvermin girl and is instrumental in Belazir's defeat.

McCaffrey's concept of 'brain' technology is an ingenious springboard for fascinating stories, and the universe she created and shares with other writers is well worth a visit. However, The Ship Avenged is not the best introduction. Try The Ship Who Sang or Partnership for a more exciting view of this universe.

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