If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this long-running space opera series, then this isn’t the best place to dive in, as Ghost Ship is well into the story arc of young pilot Theo Waitley. The beginning of this part of the series is Fledgling – see my review here, and the next slice of the adventure is Saltation – see my review here.
Theo Waitley’s not a kid anymore. She now wears a First Class pilot’s jacket, has a job offer from Korval, carries multiple weapons, and may wear a Tree-and-Dragon pin, if she dares. Everyone she meets thinks she’s dangerous, and most of them approve…
As the back cover blurb then continues in spoiler mode, I’m leaving it at that. But what this smart, enjoyable space opera manages to do is give a real slice of the gaps opening up in humanity when the diaspora are now scattered across planets. Theo is more conscious of this than most as she has a Liaden, ex-pilot for a father and a high-ranking academic mother from the risk-averse planet of Delgado, where she was brought up and in constant trouble for her clumsy, apparently reckless behaviour. She has negotiated her tricky upbringing, and successfully trained as a pilot.
Now she is confronted with making her own way in the world, but rapidly is sucked into the machinations of her father’s family whose sudden banishment from one planet and resettlement on another also impacts on her. Though she has other concerns… like the fact that an Old Technology fully sentient warship has imprinted her has part of its crew and is stalking her.
Lee and Miller plunge you into the heart of the story with the minimum of exposition and allow their characters to do the talking for them – it’s a far harder trick than they make it look. Witness all the promising science fiction tales silted up with pages and pages of description. You won’t be getting that with Lee and Miller.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty going on to keep the little grey cells ticking over though. While there is a fair amount of humour in the tussles between Theo and Bechimo, the sentient ship, Theo is also scaldingly conscious she is dealing with a scarily dangerous entity capable of creating havoc. Apart from anything else, this ghost ship appears to have mastered the knack of moving outside the recognised routes and jump waypoints…
Any grizzles? Nope. I’m really enjoying this series and think it should be far better known than it is. Anyone who enjoys Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series is likely to find the Liaden Universe world an engrossing read. Baen have now thoughtfully released the earlier novels in omnibus editions – and once I’ve completed Theo Waitley’s journey to date, I’m going to hunt these down. This world is addictive.