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The Ship Avenged by S.M. Stirling
Published by Baen Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
The Ship Avenged by S. M Stirling is a sequel to his collaboration with Anne McCaffrey, The City who Fought. Both novels are set in the Brainship universe of The Ship Who Sang. However, since this book was written by him alone, no Brains and Brawns ever show up for more than the tiniest cameo roles. Simeon from The City Who Fought is referred to from time to time, since he played a major role in the earlier lives of the principal characters, but that is it.
In this novel, the Kolnari plan to take their revenge upon humanity for their humiliation at station SSS-900-C. Belazir has acquired a deadly virus that will have ravage humanity and leave those few who are naturally immune to it psychologically ravaged. He begins his vengeance by kidnapping Amos ben Sierra Nova, the religious leader of the planet he had earlier tried to invade, only to be foiled. Amos is to become the unwitting carrier of his hideous virus.
Meanwhile, the feral child Joat, who was adopted by Simeon and his brawn Channa, has since grown up and become the youngest ship's captain ever, falls into some interesting trouble. A routine delivery to New Destinies turns into disaster when her attempt to evade a spy leads her to break security regulations. She is discovered and fined, but when she protests the inordinate amount, it is doubled twice over. Suddenly she owes as much as the ship, and she cannot obtain a hearing to protest until after the deadline to pay. It appears that her ship will be sold to pay the fine and she will be trapped as a virtual slave forever.
Joat is not about to give up so easily. In order to raise the necessary money, she takes on a dangerous smuggling job. This leads her through a tangle of underworld connections to the uncle who used her as a stake in a gambling game and lost. He has since cleaned up his act and kicked the drug habit which had led him to make such a stupid wager. Joat's overwhelming rage still leads her to needlessly antagonize him, and nearly ruins everything. Only quick action by one of her crew patches over the breach and they are sent to retrieve Amos from Belazir. Thanks to some inside information from the spy service, they know to be suspicious and not expose themselves to the disease he carries. Unfortunately, Joat has to exchange one of her own crew to get Amos out.
Belazir's son Karak, always despised for his "weakness," has become sick of his father's endless cruelty and smitten by Amos' fellow captive Soamosa, who was to have been Amos' bride. Risking his father's murderous wrath, Karak first gives Soamosa the vaccine against the virus and then hijacks a fightercraft to take her to safety. However, he neglected to protect himself from the disease and begins to fall ill. By some fragment of good fortune they encounter Joat's ship and are rescued. Joat then determines to rescue her crewmember.
Belazir has been satisfying his sadistic urges on this crewman, Bros, who had once been an agent in the struggle to free space station SSS-900-C from the Kolnari. Joat has to masquerade as a human mercenary for the Kolnari in order to sneak aboard their mothership. When she gets Bros free, she runs straight into the attack the angered organized crime forces have mounted on the Kolnari for attacking one of their own (Belazir had kidnapped Joat's uncle and his mistress). Suddenly her tactical innovations turn disastrous because she cannot communicate to them that she is on the same side as them, and she has to return to the Kolnari ship to hide.
After the Kolnari are beaten, Joat still has the trouble of the money owed against her ship. It is going to be sold at auction to pay the fine, and just as she despairs of ever raising enough money to save it, it is taken off the auction list. Her friends have pulled through for her after all.
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Review posted May 19, 1999
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