Merchanter’s Luck: An entertaining space opera

Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMerchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMerchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh

Tantor Audio has recently released two of C.J. Cherryh’s ALLIANCE-UNION novels, Merchanter’s Luck (1982) and Forty Thousand in Gehenna, together under the title Alliance Space. I’m going to review the novels separately since that’s the way they were originally published and can still be purchased. However, I love that you can get them both in one Kindle edition or one 22-hour long audiobook! The narration by Daniel Thomas May works well.

In Merchanter’s Luck we meet Sandor, a good-looking, slightly dishonest, 27-year-old merchant with a tragic past who lives on a tiny 150-year old spaceship. Sandor was born and raised on the ship — it’s pretty much all he has left. But he can’t run it by himself and his last crew member just jumped ship. So now he’s in a bar, in port, trying to find someone to hire who’ll work cheap.

That’s where he meets Allison, daughter of the most powerful merchant house in the Alliance. Since he’s not totally legit, Sandor tries to stay away from the elite merchants, but he can’t resist Allison. After a night of passion, Sandor follows Allison to her next port, Pell Station. To get there, he breaks some rules and flies recklessly. That’s how he comes to the attention of the authorities he was trying to evade.

Merchanter’s Luck by C.J. Cherryh science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAs for Allison, there are nearly 2,000 people on her family’s ship. She wants command but there are too many relatives more senior than her. The only way she’s going to get control of her own ship anytime soon is to use her wealth to make a deal with the now totally desperate Sandor.

Can these two, who hardly know each other, form a successful partnership? Sandor’s got secrets and lots of baggage. Allison is ambitious and doesn’t appreciate that Sandor can’t share control. Their new relationship will be tested when their first job, delivering mysterious cargo, goes south.

Merchanter’s Luck is an entertaining space opera set in Cherryh’s ALLIANCE-UNION (THE COMPANY WARS) universe. It stands alone, so you don’t need to be familiar with the world, but it may be helpful if you’ve read Downbelow Station.

Merchanter’s Luck is well-paced with a nice balance of action, mystery, and character exploration. Cherryh gradually unveils Sandor’s tragic past and how post-traumatic stress affects his present cognition and behavior. Learning to trust and heal is a theme. For a story that begins with a one-night stand, there is surprisingly little romance.

Originally published in 1982. Alliance Space audio edition published in February 2021. His name was Sandor and he was the owner and entire crew of a tramp star-freighter that flew the Union planets under false papers and fake names. Her name was Allison and she was a proud but junior member of the powerful family whose mighty starship, Dublin Again, was the true queen of the spaceways. They met at Viking Station, she seeking a night’s dalliance, he desperately in search of a spacer assistant. Their fateful meeting was to lead to a record-breaking race to Pell Station, thereby catching the calculating eye of the grim commander of the Alliance battlecraft Norway, and a terrifying showdown at a deadly destination off the cosmic charts.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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