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4.7 out of 5 stars42
4.7 out of 5 stars
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2001
Anne McCaffrey, the author of The Ship Who Sang, is a popular science fiction writer. The Ship Who Sang was her first book of her brain series: stories about physically impaired children that were transformed into shells and then wired into spaceships. Just like her other books, The Ship Who Sang is exciting and enticing. I have not read another book that was more compelling than this one, which is due to the emphasized human interaction, great title, unbearable suspense and profound character development. The Ship Who Sang is about Helva, a "brain" ship whose brave and legendary voyages gained her freedom in the short time of ten years. Yet, instead of accepting her independence, Helva remains in the service to be with the man she loved. This ultimate sacrifice is beautifully developed and is probable one of the main driving forces to the book's success. Yet, another important aspect of the book is its relevance to society. Instead of focusing on the supernatural powers of "brain" ships, Anne decides to focus on the human nature of these unusual spaceships. Thus, human ideals are made more powerful and important than the boring, unchanging power of a machine (this is especially refreshing to me since most science fiction novels focus on the unbelievable powers of their world). This allows current issues like euthanasia and cloning to be cleverly inserted and debated upon. Thus, by disobeying the archetypal science fiction book, Anne McCaffrey has introduced a new brand of fiction that combines romance, adventure and science fiction. In any book, the first impression is made by the title. The Ship Who Sang is a good representation of the book. Right away, we know the story is about a singing ship. Furthermore, the use of the word "who" instead of "that" indicates that the ship is partially human. Thus, we have a human ship or a "brain" ship. Singing is also important, as it is one of the minor themes of the book. In a future where ships are forced to learn "trajectory, propulsion techniques, computation, logistics, mental hygiene, basic alien psychology, philogy...", there is no requirement for arts. Ironically, Helva's singing is the linchpin to her success in three of the four missions. Thus, by showing the importance of arts in the book, Anne is trying to protest the diminution and discouragement of art and music in our current world.
If there is a weakness in this book, it is its banal plot. After all, many stories contain odysseys of women who make a sacrifice to marry the man they loved. Although marred by being unoriginal, the plot is superseded by its suspense and character development. From the beginning, Helva was predestined for glory but I somehow wanted to see and read more about her adventures. Part of this compulsion may have been the extraordinary character development. Although the story was told in episodic events, Helva's character development was unified and well developed. The third person point of view gave us Helva's gave us a deep insight into her feelings and thoughts so that we could actually feel and predict her emotions at the end of the book.
I give this book a 9 /10. Its suspense and adventures made it entertaining and fun to read. The creativity of Anne McCaffrey was perpetual with the beautiful usage of human ideals and the unusual importance of singing. Yet, the greatest power of this book is its ability to combine science fiction with art: a great achievement for any modern book. Therefore, I avidly recommend this book for all readers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2005
This is the first, and the best, of Anne McCaffrey’s Brainship stories. A young woman, Helva was born with terrible physical problems that were incompatible with any kind of independent life. New technology allowed her to be encased in a titanium shell that formed the core of a spaceship, with her brain wired up to the ship, allowing her to use her formidable intellect to act as the craft’s central ‘computer’. She has become the first of the ‘Brainships’ and can now have a freedom and independence of sorts, the freedom to travel between the stars accompanied by the pilot who will be her ‘Brawn’. Helva proves to have a love of music and an incredible voice to go with it; her constant singing leads to her fame as ‘The Ship Who Sang’.
It’s hard to believe this book was written so long ago, it has certainly stood the test of time and is as enjoyable now as it has ever been. McCaffrey has introduced the idea of cyborg technology in a way that makes you question the morality of combining man and machine and to think about issues such as euthanasia. She never loses sight of the humanity of this young ‘hybrid’ however, and Helva’s development and growth as a person makes for moving reading. Granted this isn’t a heavyweight of literature, don’t expect lengthy prose or hard science, and occasionally the book lapses into more of a romance than a sci-fi story, but that aside, this is still a really good read. Keep an open mind and give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2005
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.
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on 8 November 2012
Ann McCaffery has a real knack for unique concepts & characters, & 'The Ship Who Sang' is no different.

The concept is of 'Brain' ships; the idea of taking a heavily disabled, but intellectually sound baby & training them to eventually form the 'Brain' of a fleet of space ships who are partnered with an equally highly trained pilot or 'Brawn'.

The idea of overcoming disability was the first thing that grabbed me, at no point do any characters, whatever the rank, consider the disabilities a disadvantage. In fact several times the primary character, Helva, talks about her advantages over the able-bodied.

The plot charts Helva's many missions & successes, through what were originally six short stories, combined into one here. We are introduced to new characters, events etc. as the plot flows through the 'mission' before we move on to the next mission/story. It works wonderfully, you never feel like you're being overloaded with information, but you do get a vivid & full picture of everything that is happening around you.

Having read other McCaffery stories that featured a 'Brain & Brawn' ship, I was delighted to find McCaffery had written a series on them & despite only having owned the book two days, I have already finished it.

McCaffery's style is so easy to follow, despite her unique & quirky ideas, & the narrative flows brilliantly, the concepts are so full & rounded you realise very quickly that a lot of time & effort has been invested by the author. Her characters are always so full of live & personality, & are a big factor in making the story the master class it is.

The Ship Who Sang is an amazingly fresh story for its age, that is easy to get involved with & McCaffery's style is one of vivid description, but fantastic pacing, in fact the only moment of real disappointment was when I finished the book. The fact McCaffery herself has said this is the story she is most proud of, should speak much higher volumes than I can give. Read it, love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2002
The very idea of "brainships" is fascinating and thought provoking, and this is the first in a series of brainship based books. All the action and adventure you could want, and as always Anne McCaffrey doesn't let you down in the romance stakes either. Great if you enjoy a light, happy read.
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on 14 March 2014
2001:A space odyssey is the closest parallel with this story. It's about a ship controlled by a brain, or rather a female brain. The story focusses on the relationships the brain/ship has with people. The incidents or 'action' are kinda dotted inbetween the relationship/character development. I did like the action parts which did hold suspense but more could have been made of it. At the risk of sounding sexist, the more you get through the book, the more clear it is that the book has been written by a women. I would say the book is more suitable for female readers.

There are more books on "brain ships" written by the author(this being the first). I may read another one just out of curioustiy to see what happens as I do think the idea is good with great potential for sci-fi excellent stories.
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on 3 March 2014
What more could happen in our future? Children born with fine minds but bodies that are not as with other humans. In the story we learn that such children are not simply got rid of, or kept in seclusion to have everything done for them. In this story, which is one of several that focus on the way forwards for these children to become what is known as brain ships. One such brain is priviledged to choose her own 'brawn' and then accepts assignments from around the worlds that the 'brain element' offering support and guidance to the brawn and those she takes with her. She is known as the title of the book because she does sing on long journeys and some situations.
The book is a cracking good read which will have readers eagerly looking for and buying, the remaining set of books.
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on 15 September 2012
True to Anne McCaffrey's style, the book is a story of a relationship between human and non-human partner, of mental-prowess, of love and relationships. But here, rather than a mental linked between a human and a dragon, it is story of a girl who is bonded to the machine, whose neuron not trained not to walk or crawl, but to ignite the interstellar drive and control gravity. And of course, the story of the partners she had in her service of the 'federation of worlds'.

And as with many of Anne's books, the story's engaging, exciting end with a happy ending I couldn't do without...
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on 8 November 2011
i met anne when i was a young man in aberdeen ,she was at a book signing ,cannot remember what book it was that she was promoting,however i bought another copy of the ship who sang and ask her if she could sign this one instead as i love it and thought it was one off the best books i had read at the time and she did. i still read her books and now started to read her sons.they make you wish you could also be a dragon rider of pern. ps just realise i am on my wifes amazon account ,name is ian howie
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on 21 June 2013
Was not sure i was reading the same book as some of the other reviews. This is certainly not a bad book at all the concept of Brain ship was very good but the middle of the book with the actors was painful. I was almost ready to give up but i carried on and the last part of the book was totally gripping and engaging and i found myself with real mixed feelings. The price the book was also totally over the top at over £6 for 250 page book.
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