FINITY’S END by C. J. Cherryh

The last of the Company Wars collection set in the Union Alliance universe.  Definitely a stand alone, but it helps having some general background on the war, the three sides, Earth’s Union, (the Company), the Alliance, made up of rebel merchanters, and the former Company fleet commander Maziani and his 7 or so remaining rebel-turned-pirates ships, now lurking somewhere in deep space, and helpful to have read Downbelow Station,   which is all about the indigenous alien species living there, known as the Downers.

Finity’s End is a merchanter ship,  the oldest Merchanter ship in the universe, and the ship is coming home to Pell Station to reclaim her trade routes. Having lost an entire generation, the youngest crew members, bred and trained for war, must face their most critical battle of all–survival in a time of lasting peace.

The story follows Fletcher, born on the ship 17 years ago, whose mother and he were left by the ship on Pell because she was very ill, and the ship was going into dangerous territory.  Because he was on Pell when the ship was attacked, and so many were lost, he is the only one of his generation to survive, and the ship wants him back.   His mother was a junkie, addicted to the jump drugs, and committed suicide on Pell when he was only five years old.  He then spent the next eleven years being shunted from foster home to foster home, mostly due to his own behavior.  At one time, cowering lost in the utility tunnels of Pell, he was rescued and befriended by two Downers, which led him to his desire to study further their culture.

So he walked the straight and narrow,  has been studying planetary biology, and has been assigned to live on Downbelow, to continue his studies and work with the Downers.  He loves the rainy and dreary planet/asteroid, (whatever it is) , and is happy there when he is pulled out and sent to live with his cousins on Finity’s End.  He is really really unhappy about that.

The story is also about JR, who is on command track for captaincy of the ship, and has been assigned charge of all the juniors, and must deal  with the difficult task of handling the recalcitrant Fletcher.

It has a YA feel to it, yet not.   Stuff happens, Fletcher and his roomie save the day, and all’s well that ends well, as we Shakespeareans say.

This book is all about the people, and has very little political angle to it, whereas in comparison, Cyteen is very heavy political, political intrigue, the politics of the war, etc.

I am sorry to see this series end, but I am on to the Chanur series, about beings in a totally different region of vast space who mostly have never even heard of humans.

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TRIPOINT by C. J. Cherryh

Another Union-Alliance uiverse book.   This one has nothing to do with the previous two, Heavy Time and Hellburner, Merchanter

Stubborn minded Marie Hawkins, now Cargo Chief Marie Hawkins of the merchanter Sprite, went on station leave when she was 17, slipped her family, got caught up with teenage wise-ass Austin Bowe of the Corinthian, spent two days with him, claimed after she was raped, got pregnant, kept the child, and has never forgiven the crime, nor sought justice. Only vengeance. And, for 23 years, the Hawkins’s clan ship has lived with her vendetta – and with her son, Tom, the boy sired in the violent assault.

Marie’s attacker, Austin Bowe, is now captain of the Corinthian. When both ships dock at Mariner Station, Marie vanishes and Tom searches for his mother…only to find himself trapped on Austin’s ship with a half-brother he never knew he had and a crew fanatically loyal to Bowe. Now as the Corinthian flees the pursuing Sprite and a raider guns after both, the lives on board the two Merchanter ships are in the hands of Tom Hawkins. To save them all, Tom must trust a father he has never known and been taught to mistrust.

Tripoint is a system of three “dark” masses orbiting each other. They are not composed of dark matter; rather, they are much less luminous than a star. Two of the points are brown dwarfs, and the third may have been captured later. It was first charted and navigated in 2266, and serves as a staging jump-point on some of the commercial station-to-station hops, for example, Pell–Viking and Pell–Mariner. Tripoint’s orbital behavior is troublesome to predict due to gravitational interactions of three massive bodies; thus, navigation is challenging in the vicinity.   Think three body problem.

 

HELLBURNER by C. J. Cherryh

Hellburner, an experimental ship being built on ummm, I forget where, and Dekker, the crazed pilot from Heavy Time is still whacked, but now a crack pilot after completing the specialized training for this ship.  The deal with this ship is that it takes faster than average response time from the pilot and crew, who operate almost intuitively, not simply from training, and the crew is a working unit, and splitting them up is dangerous because of the way they depend on each other.

Ben, from Ben and Bird on Heavy Time, has trained even further for computer type ops stuff, wants desperately to go to Earth to get away from the danger of war.  Here’s the official blurb:

Lt. Ben Pollard thinks he’s traded the perils of the Belt for security as an Earth-based computer jockey for United Defence Command. Then he’s forced to perform a mission of mercy – and lands on an isolated, intrigue-riddled space station. In Hellburner, her newest novel, Hugo Award winner C. J. Cherryh returns to the best-selling universe of Heavy Time, Cyteen, and Downbelow Station, and creates a story of multi-global conspiracy, power politics, and military in-fighting. Here the stakes are nothing less than the future of humanity. When Pollard finds himself stranded on the Sol II battle installation without his orders, I.D., and possessions, he discovers something equally disturbing. He’s been named next-of-kin to a man he never wanted to even see again: Paul Dekker, a young pilot who attracts crises like dead flesh draws flies. The centerpiece of a top-secret war project, Dekker has just lost his entire crew in a mysterious freak accident and lost his mind to amnesia from an attempted suicide. Or attempted murder. Suddenly two more faces from Dekker and Pollard’s past are shanghaied to Sol II: their occasional lovers, renegade pilots Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib. Together they had once smashed the criminal cover-ups of a mining cartel. Now, they’re all caught in a shadowy, deadly maze of power-mongering rivalries between UDC and Fleet Strategic Operations, the Senate and Peace Lobby, and the corporate lords of both Earth and Mars. In this subtle, dark contest with mysteries that deepen by the hour and rules that change without warning, Pollard, Kady, Aboujib and Dekker must survive kidnapping, sabotage, ambush, riots, kangaroo courts, conspiracy, and treason – only to become lab animals in the frontline of an endless war for humanity’s soul. The two couples are being programmed to crew an experimental deathship no one has been able to control. And to escape the quagmire of manipulation, Pollard and his companions must master and wield the awesome power of  Hellburner. 

OK, I am devouring these books like salted peanuts.  And frankly, in spite of what the author says about reading Heavy Time and Hellburner first, I read Cyteen, and then Downbelow Station, and I recommend you do the same.  Gives you a lot more idea about what is going on.

 

HEAVY TIME by C. J. Cherryh

Another entry in the Company Wars group of books.  This is what the author considers to be the beginning of the Union-Alliance universe.  Earth has a station orbiting above it, called Sol Station.  Many people were born on the Station and had never been to earth.

Out in space, there are asteroid miners, who work out of a number of different refinery stations in space.  They go out in two or three person ships searching out asteroids which might contain minerals or water or whatever, tag them, take a sample, register that tag and sample with the company on their refinery station, which then sends in huge mining ships.  As you can imagine, lots of room for cheating and corruption all around.

Well, a two man team Ben and Bird, are out searching for usable asteroids when they hear a distress beep.  After arguing about the cost of fuel, air, food, time, they would expend in going after the signal, they do, find a small mining ship like theirs in an uncontrolled spin.  After arguing again about the upside of actually entering the ship, they do go, and find a young man, on the edge of death.  After another argument, they bring him into their own ship, report it to the company, and hook up the ship to tow it to the station.

The young man, whose name is Dekker,  regains consciousness and keeps babbling that his female partner (and girlfriend) was EVA when they were struck by a mining ship unmarked on charts and trying to steal their big find, an asteroid over a kilometer long.  It hit their ship, and the explosion killed the young woman, but she is not to be found.

No one believes him, because there is no record of any mining ship in the area, the girl is actually wealthy and they have a signed agreement that in the event of an accident, etc., everything goes to the remaining partner.  So he has a lot to gain from her death.

Meanwhile, one of the two guys who found the kid in the accident wants to claim the ship as salvage, so there is that ongoing argument between him and his partner.  They meet up with a couple of women who are a pilot and numbers person team,  and agree to pair up so they can run two ships, trying to pay down the debt incurred for repairs and dock time for their main ship.

Soon, however, the issue becomes far more complicated–Dekker’s story suggests a murder and a Company cover-up, and the political crisis he sparks threatens to do more than deprive Bird and Ben of their salvage.

Heavy time refers to the down time needed for spacers to regain their bone mass, etc., by spending time in a gravity environment.

 

 

RIMRUNNERS by C. J. Cherryh

A reviewer on Goodreads named ‘Wesley’ wrote the following plot description, which is way better than either the official blurb or my own pitiful efforts, so I give it to you here:

‘Rimrunners’ is the story of Elizabeth Yeager, a Marine with the infamous Mazianni pirate ship ‘Africa.’ Left behind when the Earth Company Fleet retreated from its occupation of Pell Station, Bet drifted to Thule, a dying space station in the Hinder Stars region of space near Earth. Starving and desperate she signed on the ‘Loki’ – an Alliance vessel tasked with hunting down her former shipmates. Aboard ship she falls in love with a younger engineer named Ramey, the ship’s pariah and the brutal first officer’s target of abuse. Bet is forced to make difficult decisions in order to navigate ‘Loki”s complicated politics and keep herself out of the firing line.

It is all about Bet Yeager, her relationship with the whacked-out Ndg Ramey, and others on board, as she tries to keep her former identity a secret and beef up her claim to being a mechanic.  Her twenty years of military training keep leaking out in her physical stance, her OCD neatness, and her wariness.   A lot about casual sex on board, which was sort of odd, but OK, and a lot of confusing stuff as to the officers and who was actually running the ship.

A finale which included something of an implausible (even for fiction, even for space fiction) battle at the dock of the dying station Thule,  where two of them in previously acquired weaponized space suits and one guy doing something to the ship’s core manage to fend off a large Marzianni warship and its attendant outrider ships, did not lessen my enjoyment of this book, which was more about personal stuff, relationships, etc., than politics and battles.

If I have piqued your interest in this whole series, which began  publication in the late 1970s, I suggest you read the Wiki overview, because although the author claims that you can read any book in any order (“like any history book”), frankly, after having read four now, I was still a bit fuzzy about stuff, so getting smart at last, I googled up a decent synopsis and recommend it to you.

MERCHANTER’S LUCK by C. J. Cherryh

OK, I am  hereby confessing I have fallen into the abyss of the Union-Alliance universe of C. J. Cherryh.  I may never be seen again.   There are 28 full length books, and four short story anthologies.  I have only read three so far.  Darn things are like salted peanuts.  Especially since although they are all set in the same universe, they span centuries,  and various characters from one book may make a brief appearance here and there, each book is a standalone, not dependent on the details of the plot line of other books.  You can dive in anywhere with little confusion, as what you need to know is explained in the book you are reading.

The books tend to be grouped loosely in thematic aggregates.  I am now involved in The Company Wars group, which started with Downbelow Station.  Merchanter’s Luck takes us a little farther along from the events in Downbelow Station, in which we learned about merchant ships, some huge freighters, some small insystem ships, and the occasional small freighter which has jump capability.*

Merchanters are operated by family, and most if not all of the crew on board these ships are related. Children are born on the ships, and most of the crew have never lived on planets or stations, but only ever on the ship.   Sandor Kreja is a young man, operating a very small jump ship solo, a rarity, and not always legal.  The ship originally carried a crew of maybe 60 people, including the children, but were attacked by pirates when Sandor was ten, and all but Sandor and two of his teen siblings who were hiding, were murdered.   The three kids do their best to survive but one by one, the two older ones die, and Sandor is left alone.  He survives somehow by scam, false papers, changing identity, and ferrying small loads that the larger ships don’t want to bother with, and carrying passengers who do not have the money for better transport.

On Pell Station, broke and desperately looking for a load out, he sees in a bar, a crew member of the mighty Dublin Again freighter , with a crew of well over a thousand folks.  The crew member is Allison Reilly.  And Sandor is instantly smitten.  Allison’s problem is ambition.  She wants to be captain, but that is never going to happen.  There are 24 levels of Helm, level 24 being the bottom, and Allison is only at level 21.  What with rejuv creating the long long lives of the crew, the likelihood of ever getting higher than level 21 Helm is remote.

When she discovers the desperate spot Sandor is in, she manipulates to leave the Dublin Again on extended leave, with a huge loan from the ship, and if not the Captain’s blessing, at least his OK.  She then manages to liberate Sandor’s ship, Lucy, and signs on with her 4 helmmates, as crew.  He is happy with the liberation, and the fact that they have acquired a nice profitable cargo run, but is unhappy with the idea of shipmates, as he is used to living and traveling solo.

Called into the office of Mallory, captain of the huge and dangerous warship Norway, (from Downbelow Station), he is given a military cargo to jump to a far and insubstantial station.  When he and the crew arrive, they find themselves in the middle of an ambush by the piratical Mazianni, former Company ship captain turned rebel and perilous.  Norway, Dublin Again and several other huge freighters and warships arrive to sort of save their bacon.  They learn they were set up by Dublin and Norway to take the hit, so that the Alliance can hopefully destroy Mazianni’s fleet.

All’s well that ends well, fortunately, and since this is only the absolute bones of this nifty book, you really must read it to get the full effect.

What I am enjoying about Cherryh’s series is the details of the worlds, station operation, culture of the stations, the freighter merchanters, all evolving in the middle of the struggle and current detente between the freighter Alliance and the station Union.   I am finding it all fascinating.  Space opera with office politics.  hahaha

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*Jump is a fictional technology for travel faster-than-light (FTL.)  Estelle Bok, (also fictional) a physicist investigating FTL travel, achieved a major breakthrough in 2230 when she found a loophole allowing the Einsteinian limit to be breached. This enabled her to derive the Bok Equation, the theoretical basis for FTL travel.

Jump takes place between two massive objects, called jump-points, which are generally stars, brown dwarves, or “rogue planets” sufficiently massive to make “pockmarks” in hyperspace. Prior to jumping, the ship’s navigators calculate an outbound vector, targeting the destination jump-point with direction and speed. The ship accelerates along this vector with a long STL burn until it is clear of the current jump-point’s gravity well. The jump engines are then engaged and the ship punctures the interface between realspace and enters jumpspace. Provided the proper heading was achieved prior to jump entry, the ship is drawn through jumpspace to the nearest gravity well on the outbound vector, the destination jump-point. Here it re-enters realspace, traveling at the same heading as it was before it entered the jumpspace, but at a velocity which is a large fraction of C (the speed of light).[4] Back in normal space the ship dumps velocity by cycling its vanes to graze the interface, like casting an anchor hyperspace, before the STL thrusters take are used to slow the ship further at system-safe velocities. It is possible to pass through several jump-points without slowing down, but this is risky as it can cause the ship’s velocity to become uncontrollable.

 

THE HEART OF THE RED FIRS by Ada Woodruff Anderson

Another of Mz Anderson’s works, this one published in 1908.  The other book of hers that I read, The Rim of the Desert,  was enjoyable, with a more involved plot.  This offering was clearly chick lit, all about romance and men of character and honor, and women of strength, determination,  and grit.  The heroes were heroic, and the villains were definitely villainous.

I read both of these books because I like fiction from that time period, because of the writing style, but I was interested in the location where both were set .. the Pacific Northwest.  This one is set around Puget Sound, in the virgin forests with timberland hundreds of years old, and it is distressing how, in both books, the interests of the protagonists are in settling the remote country and selling off its timber, diverting rivers and streams to create irrigation, and planting crops.  In both books, the protagonists talk of how they love this unsettled country and the purity of nature, while doing everything they can to bring population to their regions.

The plot of this one is basically a lovely school teacher whom every man falls in love with, and how the two prominent suitors turn out to be one baddy and one Dudley Do-Right, and everyone gets his or her just deserts.

I read it for the poetic descriptions of the land and tolerated the women’s magazine romantic plotline.  Beautiful writing, stupid storyline.