A stand alone SF book. Part of the Alliance Space omnibus.

Publication year: 1982
Page count: 214 in the omnibus
Format: print
Publisher: Daw

Sandor Kreja is the owner and the sole crew of the small merchant space ship Le Cygne. Unfortunately, his family was killed in an attack by one of the Mazian fleet warships. Since then, he has lived in fear and isolation. However, he needs other crew members to run the ship safely. He tries to hire people whom he judges to be harmless: people who won’t cut his throat in the middle of the night or sell him out to pirates. Because the Mazian fleet are technically military, Sandro has forged papers with a different name for himself and his ship. He is also afraid that the forgery will someday be found out but he loves his ship and he can’t give it up.

Then one day he sees a gorgeous woman in a bar and has one night with her. His lonely life has driven him almost crazy and he decided to follow her ship to Pell which is at the intersection of Union and Alliance space. Sandor also thinks that Pell might have better contracts for him. She’s Allison Reilly and she’s part of one of the biggest merchant ships and families around. Sandor knows that he doesn’t have a chance with her but he jumps after her ship anyway. And become something of a celebrity. In the end, Reilly’s ship offers him a contract which looks way too good to be true.

The book starts in a way that at first fools the reader to think that it could be a romance. But it’s not. Sandor (Ed Stevens is his assumed name) has lived his paranoia too long and Allison is level headed enough to know that she can’t trust a stranger. It might develop later into a romance, though, but not in this book.

Even though Sandor and Allison are both space merchants, they come from the opposite ends of the spectrum. Sandor is alone and paranoid and on the edge of legality because of his situation. Allison was born to the ship Dublin Again which has over 1,800 crew, most of them her kind. She works with her cousins and can rely on them to watch her back every time. Her biggest problem is that because of the rejuvenation treatment which allows people to live longer and in far better physical and mental health, her career is unlikely to advance. Ever. But she’s ambitious and willing to take risks. It’s also very hard for her to really understand Sandor’s life and past.

The setting seem to be sometime after the events in Downbelow Station. Union and Alliance have made a tentative peace and Union merchanters are now allowed to trade in Alliance space. The merchanters don’t seem to like either government. Sandor and Allison are Union merchants but they both seem to fear their government. Sandor is terrified that if his forged papers are noticed, he will be brainwashed into a happy citizen.

Allison reminded me of the Chanur traders: Dublin Again is a family ship and her closest crew are her cousins. However, while this book is a fun roller coaster ride, I didn’t click with the characters as well as did with the crew of Pride of Chanur.