When I read this book I was surprised to see it had first been published in the 1960s. The idea of a ship controlled by a human brain is so 21st century I was amazed that Anne McCraffey had come up with the idea so early on in the 20th century!
The story centers around Helva, born with terrible physical defects, her brain is transplanted into a metal shell until she is old enough to be put inside a Space Craft where she will merge with the technology and become part of the ship. Her relationship with her pilots and passengers is poignantly portrayed, whilst her ability to sing is nurtured by those she comes to love and trust.
Helva is not just a dispossessed brain implanted into a space ship, she is totally human, she loves, she grieves, she gets angry. She is all woman but she is also part of a machine that has work to do among the many planets littered across the universe. Helva becomes aware that machines with brains also can go rouge, as humans do, but even though she looses a pilot she loves, she remains true to her designation and learns to adapt to every situation thrust upon her by the humans she works with and for.
The title refers to Helva's ability to sing, something she does out of love for her first pilot, and it is her singing that teaches her more about her human/machine soul, than anything she has learnt through study or experience. This is a quirky, curious novel about a human/ship hybrid, and is well worth reading, just for the wonderful ideas it comes up with. For example Helva is paid a salary to maintain herself, as well as being allowed to choose her companions (pilots.
The plot itself is fragmented in that it is not continuous, rather many little stories are being told as Helva takes on various missions and meets an assortment of people both good and bad. An interesting idea that works and reads well. Well worth buying.