The Ship Who Sang
By Anne McCaffrey
Published by Library of Congress Program for the Blind
Read by Corrie James
Helva is a “Shell Person.” She was born with a badly deformed body but her brain was whole and healthy so in her future society, the best thing for her was to be encapsulated into a titanium shell (with all sorts of connected sensors and manipulators etc.) and raised that way among other shell people. Shell people, in general, are brilliant and have greater senses and faster reaction times than normal humans. And they are trained in various jobs in which a mere artificial computer brain just cannot compete. Helva was trained to be the brain of a starship and was one of the best.
A “Brain Ship” is generally run by a team of a shell person (or “Brain”) and a human companion (or “Brawn”) and this is the story of how Helva found and lost her first Brawn, with whom she had fallen in love because of their shared love of music. And then went through a series of adventures and temporary companions until, at least she found a new permanent Brawn she felt was worthy of her.
It is a fairly powerful plot and there are those who feel this is one of Anne McCaffrey’s best books. I have to admit it is well-written and has everything I expect from a good science fiction story, but it has never been one of my favorites. I don’t think that is the fault of the author. I liked many of her “Pern” series and thoroughly enjoyed the “Crystal Singer” series, but this one just felt more like a romance novel. However, there are those who love romance novels. There are a lot of people who love romance novels. I’m not one of them, but in fairness this is solid science fiction, not romance. I don’t think you’ll find Fabio on the cover of any of this book’s editions, although he might not be entirely out of place.
Also, I must admit that while this is not one of my favorites by Anne McCaffrey it is an immersion and engrossing story that will hold you from beginning to end. So why didn’t I like it? Darned if I know. Maybe I’m just too ornery to like this one. I keep thinking I ought to like it…
I was particularly happy to find a copy of the Library of Congress Program for the Blind edition of this audio book. I was a bit surprised not to find one at Audible.com, but I will frequently opt for a book that is read rather than performed. However, what really made me happy was discovering the vocal talent of Corrie James.
The strange thing was I had to look her up to get the correct spelling of her name. Various websites were guessing, I suppose, and one was rather wide of the mark, but when I found her own website (http://www.corriejamesthebrit.com/) I figured that I must have found the right spelling (unless she was feeling creative?).
Corrie James is a superlative vocal talent as had read many audiobooks along with doing other voice work and I thought she did an excellent job with this book. She modulates her voice through various accents and pitches without resorting to the “funny voices” I so often disdain. I just sat back and let her tell me the story and I enjoyed every word.
So, while this may not be my favorite McCaffrey novel, I love it now because it introduced me to Corrie James, whose voice I hope to hear on more audiobooks in the future.