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The Ship Who Sang

(Brainship #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  23,156 ratings  ·  471 reviews
Helva had been born human, but only her brain had been saved—saved to be schooled, programmed, and implanted into the sleek titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. But first she had to choose a human partner—male or female—to share her exhilirating excapades in space!

Her life was to be rich and rewarding . . . resplendent with daring adventures and endless excitement
Paperback, 248 pages
Published December 12th 1985 by Del Rey Books (first published 1969)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  23,156 ratings  ·  471 reviews

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Aunt Edie
Jun 15, 2012 added it
Shelves: reviewed, sci-fi
It was Thanksgiving, I was out of town, had just gotten ready to head out for dinner when I heard that Anne McCaffrey had passed. It hit me like a punch in the gut. I couldn't quite shake it all evening. What was going on? Sure, I've read her books but she has never been on a list of favorite authors, why was I so affected? I knew L'Engle would be a tough one for me. Butler was just so unexpected. Le Guin is going to turn me into a wreck. But McCaffrey? I've never listed her as an influence or p ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amelia by: Valerie
Shelves: i-read-for-free
Oh the awkward moment when you don't like someone's favourite book they've loaned you. Admittedly it would be somewhat inaccurate to say I didn't like it... I liked it fine - for the most part - until page 304. This is where we get to Anne McCaffrey's views on love and sex which are... dated, shall we say. I thought, as Valerie raved about this book, that I wouldn't be able to identify with Helva as a human being. That a spaceship experiencing emotions would be just too much for my sci-fi-is-ok- ...more
You could structure an entire college course around the ethical questions raised in this book. Is it ethically justified to take children with sound minds but no control of their bodies and then hook them up to galaxy class spaceships to work off the medical expense through government contracts? What ethics are involved for such a ship in making choices about their missions and their destiny? Would other humans want to compete for such an honor, or would it still be a secondary existence to livi ...more
Mark Johansen
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I think I read this before I read her Pern series, at least about the same time in the early 1970's. I was really impressed by her take on a cyborg. It was different than anything I'd read before. She looked at it with a lot of humanity. A perennial favorite of mine.
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: feminists in the making, sci fi enthusiasts, adventure enthusiasts
Every now and then I pull this book out and reread it. I probably have pulled it out more frequently in the last 8 years since my father's death than before then. I took my father's death pretty hard and this book does deal with the questions that get raised during that grief. In fact, McCaffrey wrote it after her own father died. Why can't someone you love live forever? What happens to your spirit if you stay immersed in grief rather than moving on? Suppose you have specific regrets connected w ...more
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, science-fiction
As with it seems all Anne McCaffrey's books I was hooked and found it very difficult to put down - made worse by the fact that it's quite easy to hold, being so small, at the dinner table...

The Ship Who Sang is about Helva who's body is disfigured and fairly unusable from birth, however her mind being unaffected she is raised to be a shell-person and become a brain ship. I really love the ideas of brain ships, the extra things they are capable of despite lacking the mobility of their human body,
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I've read the first short story/ chapter a few times, and it always moved me but didn't make me feel the need to read further. But now I found a group discussing it... you can find that discussion in The Lady Vaults, Oct. 2019

Anyway, to address just three complaints of negative reviewers:
The plot is 'fragmented' because it's stitched-together short stories. Think of it as episodic and it's fine.
The love story at the end is *not* just about lust. Yes, i
I have a collection of short stories by McCaffrey, but I realized when I got it down to reread and review it that one was a sequel to this book. So I searched around until I found a copy, which took longer than I expected.

First, the table of contents:

The Ship Who Sang
The Ship Who Mourned
The Ship Who Killed
Dramatic Mission
The Partnered Ship.

The book, in other words, is a collection of short stories. McCaffrey did write novels, but this isn't one. But since all the stories at least involve the 'br
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it
First off, I'm late to the Anne McCaffrey oeuvre. Someone gave me a stack of her books, and I thought I'd start with Dragonflight, for which she's best known. Bad idea, as that is a novel of extremely unlikeable people who do cruel things to one another (also, the "romance" was entirely forced and grossed me out.)

The Ship Who Sang has characters that it's much easier to root for, and the scientific ideas are progressive and unique. But. Helva is exceedingly naive for someone of her experience. S
Angus Mcfarlane
Dec 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi, reviewed
The ship who sang is a historical science fiction piece that comprises short vignettes which exercise both technological speculation and contemporary commentary. I liked the angle on time and space travel that is taken: interstellar travel is routine, but apart from the very long times needed to get to faraway places, the days weeks or years needed for the trips taken in the various stories is never mentioned. Ambiguity is also retained throughout regarding the trustworthiness of the central wor ...more
Jane Jago
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is both happy and sad and it is so well written....
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I just love these old-time optimistic science fiction books!
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-2018
3.5 Stars.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! I really liked that it was a collection of short stories. It made it somehow easier for me to read, and though each short probably could have been fleshed out to be their own novel or novella, I still felt satisfied at the end of each one.

This book could easily be the subject of a college lit course (one that I would have actually wanted to take!). From the biblical themes to discussions of morality, and even the types of roma
Samantha (AK)
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
The late Anne McCaffrey was a giant in the field, one of those authors that everyone's heard of, even if they haven't read her books. Somehow, though, I've managed to completely bypass her work until now.

The Brainship books were brought to my attention a little while ago by way of random internet reference. You know the kind. Someone makes a throwaway post about a book they read in childhood, someone else commiserates, and they're off. I wish I could remember who it was.

The Ship Who Sang is the
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was the first Anne McCaffrey book I read, and I fell in love with it.
I love singing, which attracted me to the title, and I was entranced by the idea that Helva had been born with severe physical disabilities but was mentally bright, so her brain was wired up to control spaceship parts rather than limbs, and to access computer data storage as well as what is in her brain.
But she still has human needs, and develops this extraordinary talent to sing as a hobby and a way of engaging her feeli
Christine Ricci
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
At first I was a little disappointed because I felt I needed more evidence of the four years or so that Helva spent with her love to deserve such a grieving process. However, I found that I eventually, felt there was no need. The relationships throughout the novel are quite compelling and speak to the many types of relationships I see in my life. The novel seems to be an expansion of the idea that everyone you know, was put into your life for a reason. You know them for the time it was important ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
It was alright. I have a memory of reading somewhere that Anne McCaffrey couldn't read the story without crying, but I didn't feel much emotion from it myself. The whole middle part about actors and taking on an alien "envelope" body so that they could perform Shakespeare...what? It's just too weird for no real reason. The whole book reads as sexist as basically every woman exists for this or that man and if they don't...isn't that AWFUL? Don't they want a COMPANION?
D Dyer
I found the ideas in this book fascinating but the structure made it less enjoyable than it could’ve been. The story is told in the format of a series of short, mostly self-contained stories but this means that we really don’t ever get to know any of the characters in more than a cursory way. Even Helva, the ship who sings of the title, didn’t ever become really three-dimensional for me. But I enjoyed the action sequences and the idea of the brainships is definitely intriguing. I’m hoping to get ...more
I think the ideas in this book were probably ground breaking when it was written(?). I could not tough get invested enough in the story.
This book was better than I expected.... The author explores the fascinating psychological experience of an intellectually gifted, physically disabled woman who is entombed inside a spaceship and neurologically integrated with it. The story focuses on her longing for relationships and the challenges of using her intellectual power to achieve the ship's complicated missions to various planets. The final chapter where she succeeds in finding a mature partner who is the right emotional match is qui ...more
Alex Satrapa
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anne Mccaffrey was a prolific writer of Science Fantasy. The first Anne Mccaffrey book I read was this one, "The Ship Who Sang." Anne's writing (all through the books I have read from Dragonriders, Petaybee and Crystal Singer) has always struck me as optimistic, romantic, and not at all concerned about physics. If you are a hard science fiction fan (i.e.: you love Asimov and Arthur C Clarke) you might be left feeling cheated by The Ship Who Sang: there are gaping plot holes on just about every p ...more
Jan 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
If I was reading this for the first time I'd only give it 2 stars but it gets 3 from me for sentimental reasons as I loved it when I first read it as a teenager.

It was an interesting experience reading it again after so long. It would be considered wildly political incorrect if it was written today. It opens with parents of the severely physically disabled baby, Helva, given the choice of euthanasia or having her become a shell-person/cyborg. This didn't bother me the first time I read it, and d
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first Anne McCaffrey book I've picked up. Hers is one of those names in Sci-Fi that can seem daunting to dive in to. I came with so much hesitant expectation. I was worried that if I didn't like it I'd be put off her whole award-winning back catalog, but her writing is astoundingly accessible when you consider she's often held up with other pillars of the genre like Bradbury and Heinlein.

The book flowed like a series of short stories connected by the growth and development of the ma
Sic Transit Gloria
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Helva was born horribly misshapen, but that doesn't mean she has to be a burden on society. Instead, she is hooked up to a computer and taught how to pilot a spaceship. Now that she's actually assumed a ship to pilot, she must deal with the matter of finding a human partner and surviving the harsh galaxy.

Quite simply, this book is typical of McCaffery: Brilliant concept, horrible execution. I've actually put a great deal of thought into the idea of connection paralyzed babies to computers to ena
Feb 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, space-opera
Helva has been wrapped in a titanium 'shell' since birth, a shell that protects and nurtures her, as her own body is broken and useless. Inserted into a spaceship that becomes her body, she travels the stars with her partnered 'brawn', working for the Central Worlds government as a medical ship, trying to pay off the debt she incurred for her upbringing and spaceship body. But Helva is unique amongst Brainships, she is the ship who sings.

This book brings together several short stories about Helv
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McCaffrey's Science Fiction is so different from PERN! While I love her PERN books for a bit of escapism, books like The Ship Who Sang are really more my style. Plus both McCaffrey and I are/were classical singers, so I really love it when she puts music in the mix.
First book for Space Opera September complete! It has definitely not aged very well.
Sara Norja
This book was mentioned in connection with Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice series, as an example of earlier SF with sentient ships - so when I found it for super cheap at Worldcon75's used books stall, I grabbed the copy.

The Ship Who Sang was published in 1969, originally as short stories / novelettes, and then revised into a novel. The short story feel definitely affected the novel's structure, as there wasn't a bigger overarching plot, but shorter adventures. The character development was cont
Louise Armstrong
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I remember totally enjoying this book when I was a teenager, and it holds up pretty well. What impressed me were her alien Corviki. They express themselves in human words and concepts (how could it be else?) BUT given a neat twist so they sound alien.

"'My energy group is excited to experience the total pressure dominances of these envelopes,' the Manager replied, emanating the lavender-purples Helga equated with pleasure in Corviki."

Aliens are created a bit lazily sometimes - was it James Blish
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Space Opera Fans : August 2017 - The Ship Who Sang 21 39 Aug 14, 2017 03:01PM  
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Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Her parents were George Herbert McCaffrey, BA, MA PhD (Harvard), Colonel USA Army (retired), and Anne Dorothy McElroy McCaffrey, estate agent. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), Major US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall in Staunton Virginia, Montclair High Scho

Other books in the series

Brainship (9 books)
  • Honeymoon (Brainship, #1.3)
  • The Ship That Returned (Brainship, #1.4)
  • PartnerShip (Brainship, #2)
  • The Ship Who Searched (Brainship, #3)
  • The City Who Fought (Brainship, #4)
  • The Ship Who Won (Brainship, #5)
  • The Ship Errant (Brainship, #6)
  • The Ship Avenged (Brainship, #7)

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