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Brain Ships (PartnerShip & The Ship Who Searched) Hardcover – November 4, 2003
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"Quite entertaining . . . captures the spirit of The Ship Who Sang . . . a single, solid plot. . . ." "Splendidly paced and filled with lively characters . . . [PartnerShip is] excellent entertainment." "A perfect combination of SF, adventure, and romance, this is sure to please a wide variety of readers." "[The Ship Who Searched is] superb . . . Lackey and McCaffrey have created a marvelous love story in an exciting science fictional setting and then topped it all off with an ingeniously spiffy resolution."
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The second novel, (3.5 stars) PARTNERSHIP is about another young brain (born into the 1% High Family class) who is partnered with something like a born-again Vulcan. On her first mission she overhears her High Family brat/thug passengers plotting highly illegal things and inexperienced as she is has to figure out how to deal with it since her brawn tells her it is unethical to tell anyone because they thought she was an AI. As the plotters schemes bear fruit over the years, Nancia has to watch and fume until her autocratic brawn is injured and she lucks out with the temp.
Basically, children with incurable, severe physical birth defects can be "saved" by putting the person in a mechanical "shell," where their brains are connected to the machine. Although the books often refer to these people as "brains," it is not just a bare brain that's in there, it's the whole person. That person can choose a career that suits them, but basically they function as sentient computers guiding things like cities, hospitals and space ships. They are partnered with a highly-trained mobile person to act as their hands and legs, since the shell people have limited mobility.
PartnerShip details the adventures of brainship Nancia from the time she received her first mission. That first mission served to shape the entire novel, and involved escorting five less-than-savory highborn brats to their various assignments in remote systems. Nancia has no brawn for this first mission, and she is very naive in the ways of the world, but is quickly disgusted by her passengers. Eventually, she takes on a brawn for a partner and they fulfill various missions for the Courier Service. Her brawn sees things as black and white, with absolutely no shades of gray or slack, and this serves Nancia well at first. She wants to do what's right and honor her family and she realizes she doesn't have the experience in the world to always know what's right. However, she doesn't realize at first that there are many perspectives on "right," and not all may fit with a hard-line moral code.
As time goes on, Nancia slowly realizes that her brawn, Caleb, may not be right all the time, and his strict view of the universe is actually very limiting. The actions of her first passengers come back to haunt her, and eventually Caleb manages to get himself incapacitated. Because of the emergency situation, Nancia takes on a temporary brawn while Caleb heals. Her new brawn is nothing like her old one, and has a wealth of experience and humor that Caleb completely lacked.
The major plot of the book is interesting and the authors did a great job portraying the characters, and more importantly, their growth and maturation. Often I find that books where the character is supposed to "grow" are either not interesting or that "growth" is a sudden thing, rather than natural. In this book, it is completely believable that Nancia would start with one set of ideals and perspectives and slowly outgrow them. Nothing felt particularly forced about that, although her new brawn's sudden love of Nancia I found to be a bit out of synch with the rest of the story. Just seemed too sudden and out of the blue and gave me the feeling of a movie that has had some plot line left on the cutting room floor.
The other book in this series, The Ship Who Searched, is one of my favorites in the entire series. The book begins with a very independent and curious child, Hypatia Cade, who contracts a mysterious and life-changing illness on an archeological dig with her parents. (Get ready for some seriously touching and sad scenes). The illness completely paralyzes her, and in an unusual move, she is admitted to the Shellperson program. Her secret goal is to find the home world of the civilization her parents were excavating and hopefully discover the source of the virus that paralyzed her (and prevent any other child from suffering the same).
She's not impressed with any of the brawns she's presented, but finally chooses one she thinks might share some of her archaeological interests and that she could put up with. As they discover over a series of dangerous, routine and interesting missions, the two of them have a lot more in common than archaeology, and the ending is quite touching.
The characters are likeable without feeling forced, the missions are interesting, even the "routine" ones, there is action, adventure, love and friendship, and in general, it's a great read. If you liked The Ship Who Sang, you'll probably like The Ship Who Searched. It's got the same feeling and spirit, and leaves you feeling satisfied.