In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
In the 1960s, a time when female voices were underrepresented in science fiction, Anne McCaffrey was an exception. McCaffrey’s most famous books were the Dragonriders of Pern series (currently the subject of a Tor.com reread led by the incomparable Mari Ness). But, while the subject of only six short tales, one of McCaffrey’s most memorable characters was Helva (also called XH-834), who became known throughout the galaxy (and science fiction fandom) as The Ship Who Sang.