Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Ship Who Searched

by Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey


Tia, a precocious child of seven, is struck by a mysterious illness whilst on a remote planet. Gradually she loses the use of her limbs. But, believing the archaeological work of her parents to be too important to interupt, she doesn't tell them until too late. So she faces a life of being strapped to a life-support system, unless she can persuade the doctors to transfer her to a spaceship, where she would act as its brain and steer it as though it were her own body.

As a brainship Tia works with another human, known as a brawn. Whilst she is given a series of assignments, her own secret agenda is to discover the virus that laid her low and ensure no-one else has to suffer as she has. However what follows is a love story rather than a quest. As well as being unable to touch, Tia may not even express her feelings for her 'brawn'. Regulations state that if a brawn appears to develop feelings towards a brainship they must be separated, so the relationship seems to be doomed.

There is little to indicate the passage of time and we are not told just how much growing up Tia is supposed to have done. It would have been more believable if Tia was 12 or 13 rather than 7. She's simply not believable as a child. In spite of a favourite teddy bear she tends to clutch, her behaviour is altogether too mature.

The assignments combine action and intrigue, and each one is an adventure in its own right. But the missions don't cohere very well, and loose ends are left dangling. Tia and Alex, her brawn, come across a great deal more than they were expecting, yet at the end of the book Tia is still searching. However her priorities have shifted by the end, so this isn't a major let-down.

The plot holds few surprises, and the main character is altogether too selfless to be believed in. For all that, I found myself eagerly reading to the finish in the hope of a happy ending. It works well as an escapist romance, if you don't mind turning a blind eye to Tia's apparent youth. Don't expect to come out any wiser, sadder or humbled by the experience of The Ship Who Searched. Yet the authors have constructed a tale which leaves the reader emotionally satisfied, particularly if it's not taken too seriously.

Book Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Books

  Science fiction

If you like this, try:

Inconstant Moon cover    

Inconstant Moon by Larry Niven
Space exploration features heavily in this collection of short stories.

Time Future cover    

Time Future by Maxine McArthur
In a space station in the far future, Commander Halley lives at a time when humans are no longer the dominant species. The first in the Time Future series.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson