Review- Cherryh, “Merchanter’s Luck”

C.J. Cherryh, “Merchanter’s Luck” (1982) – I very much enjoyed the first of C.J. Cherryh’s “Alliance-Union” series, “Downbelow Station,” a fast-paced and agreeably overstuffed scifi novel set on a trading station on a remote planet. “Merchanter’s Luck,” the next book in the series, has some of its interstellar-workaday charm, not unlike that found in the universe of the “Alien” movies. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t drown the reader in technobabble and the particularities of gray-market interstellar trade. Sandor, the protagonist, runs a sort of tramp-steamer in space, the “Lucy,” which does various low-grade contract-shenanigan deals, staying one step ahead of the law. As far as I can tell, the plot is he falls in love with Allison, from the “Dublin Again,” a respectable family generation ship (in scenes with the family, one is tempted to cry out, “MICKS… IN… SPAAAAAACE”) that does big-time interstellar trade. He follows her spaceship on a risky “jump” to another star system, which causes attention to fall on his shady business. For some reason — love? Impressed with his dedication? — Allison convinces her bosses/grandparents to more-or-less buy “Lucy” and let her and some cousins help run the ship with Sandor and do some interstellar trade on their account. They then get entangled in some business between space-pirates and space-pirate-hunters. There’s something about a “Union” and an “Alliance,” two unhelpfully generic names for rival space empires. The characters learn to respect each other. And there’s a lot, a LOT, about the logistics of space travel. But unlike in the writings of, say, Neal Stephenson, there’s no geek-out attempt to explain these logistics. The characters just think and talk about them and expect you, the reader, to follow along with the jargon. It gets baffling and boring. I still like the overall gestalt of Cherryh’s space stories so I’m rating this higher than I might, but I hope the sequels give the readers a little more to work with. ***

Review- Cherryh, “Merchanter’s Luck”

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