Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ships that Sing - Three Books Reviewed

Daniel Dociu Fantasy Art
Shark Ship by Daniel Dociu

Hi Everyone, 

I wanted to share today three novels that have an underlying theme - sentience vessels. (Shoutout to Helen Lowe and her inspiring post on the Live Ship Trader Series.)

The three books I'm talking about today have their own style and grace, SF wonder and amazement. Each author writes with ability, power and insight. But what really excites me about these novels is their treatment of human and non-human sentience.   

What is Sentience?

Is it sapience, intelligence, consciousness? The definition can blur between self-awareness, compassion, identity, ability to suffer and also to adapt, judge and change. But once named 'sentient' everything does, indeed change.

Sentient entities are generally considered deserving of moral rights, respect, and freedom, at lease where these rights are bestowed on humans. So, do these qualities, and therefore rights, belong to humans only? If not, where do we create distinctions?

I love these three books because they each explore these hard questions, though in different ways, yet always juxtaposed to a human main character.

Back in the 60's Ann McCaffrey wrote a short story called The Ship Who Sang. She went on to revise it into a novel and then a series which was also co-written by other SF authors of the time. I'm not sure how the premise would be handled now with more awareness, 60 years later, of persons with disabilities, but still, McCaffrey asks the questions, which is what a good storyteller does.

The Ship Who Sang is about Helva, a human born disabled to the point they only could save her brain. Her life is salvaged by implanting her into the titanium body of an intergalactic ship. When she chooses a human partner, her life unfolds in terrifying and spectacular ways. Ann McCaffrey herself said this was the best story she's ever told...

Toxic by Lydia Kang

Toxic is a standalone, Young Adult SF romance with a touch of fantasy and horror. Written in Kang's ever-engaging style, Toxic is a smart read, one that takes a 'speculative' concept and makes it feel true, right down to the core.

The story focuses on a dying ship and a suicide squad sent to record its demise for the company that made it. In that crew is a young man named Fen who plans to use the last days of his life to make up for a series of wrong choices. 

Unknown to all is Hana, the girl left behind by her crew, a girl that has never been out of her room or far from the aqueous folds of her 'bio-mother-ship'... until now.

Toxic asks questions about human and non-human rights, about shifting loyalties and the power of cultural conditioning. But none of that occurs to you while turning the pages. There's too much at stake!

This book, the first in a series of at least one more, still haunts me with its metaphysical questions and real, hard-core truths. The story is, on one level, about a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast.

Carved up, literally.

While still alive.

The 'beasts' take years to die and there are classes of humans on the city/vessel/beast whose sole purpose in life is to keep it living until they find the next one to replace it. Every possible point and counter-point to the sentient experience is explored in dramatic, spellbinding, heartbreaking ways.

The world--the world-building!--that Drayden creates is so utterly unique, cinematic and so...well, real, you can't tear your eyes off the page, sure is sure is sure

I highly recommend all of these reads if you want to awaken your mind to the hard questions of science and philosophy, rights, laws and justice of what we deem alive and worthy. But I promise, while you're reading, you won't be 'thinking' at all of these things but instead gripping the edge of your seat until the ride is over.

Do you have a favorite 'non-human sentient' character? I'd love to hear of them in the comments.


Author Kim Falcconer

Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out August 4, 2020 - Crown of Bones. (Writing under A.K. Wilder) 

Also, check her urban fantasy  - The Blood in the Beginning - an Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series. 

You can find Kim on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the AKWilder.com site.


NoraA said...

I own the complete McCaffrey Ship series.. I loved every minute I spent reading it many centuries ago.

Kim Falconer said...

I love hearing that, NoraA. McCaffrey is a treasure to Fantasy readers and will be for many decades to come.

Thanks for jumping in.

Nicky said...

Julian May's 'Saga of the Exiles' starts with a sentient space ship carrying alien refugees to Earth... six million years ago. There's also people from the 22nd century in this story, thanks to time travel.

Kim Falconer said...

Hi Nicky, I just looked Julian May's series up:

The Saga of Pliocene Exile is a series of science / speculative fiction books by Julian May, first published in the early 1980s. It consists of four books: The Many-Colored Land, The Golden Torc, The Nonborn King and The Adversary.

I can't believe I missed it. On the TBR list now.

Gotta hand it to time travel though!

Thank you!