A collection of six science fiction novellas.
Running time: 8 hours, 56 minutes
Narrators: Nicola Barber and Tom Dheere
Boojum, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette was published also in Fast Ships, Black Sails pirate collection. Lavinia Whately is a living starship, but not as pacifist as Moya from Farscape; Lavinia eats other ships. Black Alice is a lowly engineer among the pirate crew but she loves her ship and when she thinks that a salvaged cargo could be a danger to the ship, she goes to the captain.
Shiva in Shadow by Nancy Kress: This story takes place in a deep space exploration ship the Kepler which has just three people; the Nurturer Captain Tirzah and two scientists Kane and Ajit. Tirzah’s duty is to keep the scientists focused on their work and working together. In order to do that, she has to constantly monitor them and she also has sex with both. They are exploring a black hole and to get data, the ship launchs a probe which will send the data back to the Kepler. The probe has uploads of Tirzah, Kane, and Ajit. The story alternates between the crew aboard the ship and the probe.
The Tomb Wife, by Gwyneth Jones takes place in an interstellar freighter. The characters are humans except for one humanoid alien who tells them the story of the Tomb Wives. Despite the name, these are the spouses (of any gender) of a dead spouse. They have stayed in the tomb and even married the tomb, supposedly of their own free will. The ship is carrying artifacts and one of them is such a tomb. Nobody knows if the Tomb Wife there is still alive. One of the crew becomes obsessed with the tomb.
The Political Officer by Charles Coleman Finlay is set in a claustrophobic environment very much reminiscent of the “Hunt for Red October”. Max is the political officer on a starship whose crew loath him but have to obey him. He knows that someone on the ship is a double agent and has to find out who.
The Remoras by Robert Reed takes place on a very old, alien starship whom humans now use. It was found drifting and nobody knows who built it or why. It’s huge, more a city than a ship. The story is set in the far future where the wealthier humans are almost immortal. They’ve paid a lot so that they can travel for centuries in that ship, called just The Ship. However, in addition to passengers, the Ship also needs crew. The most alien of the crew are the Remoras who take care of the hull.
Quee Lee is a passenger but one day a Remora comes to meet her. The Remora claims that Quee Lee’s husband owes money and she promises to speak to him about it. Quee Lee can’t stop thinking about the Remora and his strange culture, and wants to know more.
Mayflower II by Stephen Baxter is a story about a slower than light generation ship. Rusel lives in Port Sol which isn’t part of the Coalition, a vast nation where things like families aren’t allowed. Five Pharaohs live there as well. They are five humans who have gotten immortality through medical means because they help an alien race. Now, the Coalition is going to wipe out Port Sol because of the Pharaohs. Port Sol has managed to build five large spaceships but each one can carry only one thousand crew. Port Sol has 50 000 inhabitants. The lucky 5 000 were selected among the most gifted and skilled adults. Rusel finds out that he gets to go, too, but has to leave behind his girlfriend who is too young and yet unskilled to get aboard.
He thinks that he has 19 days to spend with her. But then, the ships have to leave the next morning because the Coalition ships as close and in order to get to ship Rusel has to come face to face with the people he’s abandoning. They will haunt him.
Once the ship has lifted off, it becomes clear that the culture inside will have to adapt drastically to the limited living space. Ironic, considering that one of the reasons they left in the first place was to preserve their culture. The story progresses in large jumps through time, to show how the crew’s culture evolves. Personally, I thought the leaders chose a completely wrong tactic with the crew.
I found the Tomb Wife somewhat confusing but enjoyed the rest, especially Boojum and Shiva in Shadow. These stories show a nice range of starship used for different jobs, from piracy to exploration. Most of them have large crews but the Kepler has just one, the captain. All of the crew are dependent on each other and the ship in order to survive.