Read Recently — Tragedy

the Wreck of The River of Stars by Michael Flynn

Hard SF with a character focus. It is the early 22nd century, and the River of Stars of the title is a spaceship. Originally a solar-sailor luxury liner, when fusion engines came in she was refitted with those but left with one sail just to classify as a hybrid ship. Now only a tramp freighter, she is working the outer solar system and manned by a crew of misfits accumulated by her captain, one Evan Dodge Hand.

It is a bad idea to get too accustomed to Capt. Hand, as the first thing he does in the book is die. Cause unknown, leaving the ship’s doctor distressed that she couldn’t stop it. The ship herself, mind you, is not in any great shape either; the AI is such a patchwork of programming that it’s developing a personality of its own, the sensors are shot (and the ship is due to move through some asteroid patches soon), and the engines are not responding. The Engineer is certain that he can repair them in time to permit the ship to touch down at their destination (near Jupiter), but some of the crew, old hands from the sailing days, think it would be proper for what will probably turn out to be the ship’s final mission to end with her coming in under sail, one last, glorious time. They begin a covert program of preparing the ship for sail. These competing plans will lead to . . . problems, not to say tragedy. Oh, all right. Tragedy.

And it’s tragedy in the classical sense, too, as each character earns a fate brought upon them by their own flaws. Furthermore, the story is told in language that I can only describe as verging on the poetic. If more hard SF were written like this, the entire subgenre would be more widely read.

Recommended.

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