I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Merchanter Cargo Chief Marie Hawkins has never forgiven the crime, nor sought justice. Only vengeance. And, for 23 years, the Hawkins's clan ship, Sprite, has lived with her vendetta - and with her son, Tom, the boy sired in the violent assault.
Marie's attacker, Austin Bowe, is captain of the Corinthian. When both ships dock at Mariner Station, Marie vanishes and Tom searches for his mother...only to find himself trapped on Austin's ship with a half-brother he never knew he had and a crew fanatically loyal to Bowe. Now as the Corinthian flees the pursuing Sprite and a raider guns after both, the lives on board the two Merchanter ships are in the hands of Tom Hawkins. To save them all, Tom must trust his sworn enemy...His father.
Normally, I enjoy Cherryh’s work a lot—but this novel I struggled with. It’s that whole “story based entirely on a rape” scenario that I have a hard time with. I’m having exactly the same difficulty with Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series, which I still plan to continue on with and it’s the reason that I stopped reading Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series after two books.
I had hoped that Cherryh would make Marie Hawkins a more understandable character, a woman who had a son as a result of a long-ago rape and dealt with it. Instead, it seemed to me that Marie was pretty unstable and had made her son Tom’s mental state questionable too. Is it a good thing when the son is better off as a prisoner/crew member with his pirate father than with his mother on a family ship? I guess this is Cherryh’s exploration of some of those problems that we can’t seem to get rid of, rape and child abuse. I don’t know about you, but I really want to believe that we can conquer those problems before we make it into space. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek as a child.
The ending made me happier with the book, so if you find yourself floundering during the first chapters like I did, I would encourage you to read on. I’m not saying the end justifies the means, but I was quite satisfied with the end result.
Book number 290 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.