The Greatship by Robert Reed

The Greatship by Robert Reed is a collection of twelve stories or novellas set in or on the Greatship, a Uranus-sized ship making its way through the Milky Way.  Humans were first to find the ship, and so by the galactic laws of salvage they get first ownership rights.  The captains (who feature in occasional stories but are mostly obscure) have decided to take paying passengers, who recreate parts of their worlds in the ship.    SO lots of opportunities for mingling.  Brains are all functionally immortal (they can be inscribed in ceramic and made indestructible, but oddly they cannot be copied, so there is no multiple identity problem and “who is me” issues), and bodies can be regenerated.

Hoop-of-Benzene” Probably the best story.  Clear character development, a beginning, middle, and end. A nice surprise.

“Mere” Another very good story.  An alien crash lands on a planet, finds a place, influences things, loses everything.  In the end, some kind of destiny awaits her.  Nice philosophical orientation.

“The Remoras” decide to play a joke… or get revenge… on Quee Lee, but it was never about her…. but what was it about?

“Rococo” A good alien world story, some adventure, some momentous decisions by a pair of clever siblings.

“River of the Queen” is an adventure story featuring Perri and Quee Lee.  Fun and interesting: who has taken the Queen, and why?

“Night of Time” Nice story… two creatures come to a memory specialist who can peer deep into a mind with a variety of diagnostic devices.  But the mind that turns out to be interesting is not the one you think it is.  Do we need to be needed to have a reason to live?

“Aeon’s Child” is one of those sci-fi stories that could have been published in the 1950s.  Huge staged battle scenes.  Pretty boring, lots of skimming for the reader.

“The Caldera of Good Fortune” is a very nice description of a small alien habitat on the Greatship, leading to a smallish mystery (spoiler: would being uploaded to the AI that maintains the little habitat, which is actually vast in its details, be a way to escape one’s enemies?).

“Camouflage” is a conventional hard-boiled detective story featuring a demoted sub-captain and a sad but beautiful woman, whose many husbands are being killed off.

“The Man with the Golden Balloon”  When Quee Lee and Perri explore an unmapped portion of the ship, they find an ancient being.  He can connect the dots.  The dots are hinted at. But then no actually connected.  The anticipation of a big reveal keeps the reader going, but then of course comes a feeling of being cheated.  A good review (that agrees with me!) is here.

“Hatch” The ship has lost a war with something called the Polypond, and a remaining colony of humans live as scavengers outside the ship.  A mysterious alien might hold a key.  Classic buildup to a final sense of wonder.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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