Reread: Merchanter’s Luck, by C.J. Cherryh

100% paranoia. And then some. That is the essence of the second (publishing order) Company War novel Merchanter’s Luck. It is set immediately after the Battle of Pell (Downbelow Station) and no one trusts anybody. Or anything.

For seventeen years Sandor has lived a life hiding in the margins, using forged papers and false names, and carrying whatever cargo he can find, to pay his living.  To survive he has become something of a con artist, but in the process fellow merchanters starts suspect he might be a pirate. Because how else can such a marginal ship survive, if not from black market trading, deep in space, far from stations and customs control?

He is running out of ports and is starting to despair, about life itself and the value of living it, when he is hit by the apparition of one Allison Reilly, off the huge and famous merchanter Dublin Again. A Name, as they say, whereas he has nothing. That night both his life and hers will change. Forever.

He has nothing, not even food enough, and hides his Name, not to put a bad light on the honour of the ship that once was. Still is, but now under false flag.

She has everything, but nothing too, in a different way. Dublin Again is affluent and its seniors can afford rejuv. They easily live for 130+ years. More are born than will ever be needed to run the ship and Allison has chosen the hardest track of all – that of Helm, which leads to Captaincy. The only problem is that as Helm 21 barring a grievous accident she will die without ever getting posted.

Allison get herself and her command – the three cousins in her team – onto Sandor’s ship, as crew. It is their one chance at command, at really doing what they have trained for.

Sandor, he has run the ship alone, guided by recorded messages put there by one of the three who survived the Mazianni raid on the ship all those seventeen years ago, when he was ten years old; and he starts to get afraid of the changes. He won’t accept to lose the voices he has lived with for all these years. As a result he starts acting suspicious. And Allison’s team aren’t slow to respond, adding their own suspicions to the pot.

What if there wasn’t any raid, what if the relics of a previous family they find in the cold and empty cabins really are traces of people Sandor hired and got rid of, in the dark corners of space?

Enter Alliance Force, the newfangled militia, led by ex-Fleet Mallory, with Mallory herself taking an interest in the small ship. Can she be trusted? What if she still is Fleet? Yet, their small ship has to accept what is offered – it is that or nothing…

Terse and claustrophobic prose that stabs straight at the heart… and then twists some. And some more.

If it was up to me the Company War books + Cyteen should be compulsory reading in school. Not as part of literature studies but as a way to discuss history, politics, economy, and the world we presently live in.

Go ahead!


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