Lacie Leigh Collier is a born spacefarer; her parents and their friends are all explorers and archaeologists, jaunting around the galaxy as they hunt out examples of old-style TABOO TECH. The reader is left rather in the dark as to what this is or why it\'s taboo until gradually we understand that either previous generations or alien species have created sentient machines, and these are generally feared. The Interstellar Guard keep a close watch on anyone exhibiting suspicious behaviour or gadgetry, and this means most of the adventures have to be kept under wraps.
After Lacie has been unceremoniously dumped on her uncle Sterling Trimble and college, she grows up with non-humans for friends. Among them is a hidden little tech entity, some kind of a self-aware computer that can grow and attach itself to a spaceship - if it finds one. Fire Seeker, Sterling\'s spaceship, already has its own controlling computer, as do a few houses with automatic everything. A good comparison would be Anne McCaffrey\'s The Ship Who Sang. Embers, Lacie\'s pal, never gets described except that originally it lives in a shoulder bag and gradually starts to outgrow it. We\'d think Lacie would have peeked at Embers now and then. Embers comes across as a young sister which matures during the course of the story.
Other personalities we meet include Larhan, a space energy vampire who had been imprisoned to stop him eating everything\'s power circuits. He gets released, but how far can he be trusted? A sentient plant planet was probably my favourite part of the story. A brother and sister Perris and Mai Kai who are outsiders on a cruise liner are befriended by Lacie, at a time when she and a planetary princess are about to need friends. That\'s one point to note about this book. A country is too small to be relevant; a whole planet gets taken into consideration. Given the distances and speeds involved in travel, I find it surprising that nobody even mentions the aging paradox -- when you leave your home planet and travel faster than light, then come home, everyone has aged many years while you have lived weeks. Nobody knows if you have died and your property is up for grabs. The author leaves us to guess that society may have constructed laws allowing for this behaviour.
I was disappointed that Lacie, who has to think and talk her way out of a lot of strange situations, doesn\'t share with us how she keeps fit on long space journeys, nor does she start a romantic relationship. Maybe that\'s ahead of her yet. Author Joy V Smith has written one of my favourite YA western novels, Detour Trail. If you think of a different kind of frontier and merging of vibrant cultures, you can see why TABOO TECH works. This book is suitable for YA or adult readers who are more interested in intelligent co-operation than space battles. I liked a lot about the story, especially our resourceful (and wealthy) young heroine.
Lacie's parents leave her in her uncle's care to go back to their exploring as soon as she's 18 and graduated from the girls' academy, but later he takes her on a jaunt on his ship, Fire Seeker, where his impatience grabs the attention of the Interstellar Guard, who've been keeping an eye on him, and he has to drop her off and make his escape. Fortunately, she wasn't left alone; she has Embers, who is a gift--a spark, so to speak--from her mother, Sparkles. And she goes back to school, the space academy, part of her mother's plan for her.
After she graduates from the space academy, she's contacted by some of her mother's friends, who've been biding their time, and they take her to The Depot, where she meets aliens and AIs, and she and Embers find the star ship her mother reserved for her there This is a good thing because Embers has never stopped growing--and she's getting heavy! They name their ship Flame Bright, and that is just the beginning of her adventures with more aliens, AIs, princesses, diplomats, and villains. It's going to be an exciting ride!
Torrill was in the second cargo hold before the first week was over; it was full of coffin-like containers, and he was pretty sure that the dull black circles on the ends meant that they’d flat-lined. He was working his way down the fourth row when he saw the open coffin. How long had it been open? Was there a dead body nearby? Should he look or should he get out and come back with a weapon? All he had was a knife. And the half-light in the hold made him more cautious.
He was nearing the open doorway when a shadow rose up beside him. He leaped for the door, but a prickly noose circled his throat and dragged him back. He couldn’t get his hand up to his throat because another prickly noose held his arms to his sides, but he could hack at the rope or tendril that was creeping up his left leg. One slash, a splatter of liquid, and he was thrown against a wall.
With the wall at his back, he crouched and waved the knife back and forth. The alien—it probably wasn’t a humanoid—also crouched as it held one of its legs that was bleeding all over the deck. The noises it made sounded like curses.
Torrill straightened and held the knife point down. “Need help?’ he asked. The creature stood up, though it leaned a bit on its wounded leg. It was bi-pedal, which should slow it down. It made a harsh, barking sound and then pointed to its mouth.
Thirsty, Torrill guessed. He backed to the door, slipped through, and shut it. He’d bring water, he decided, and see what developed. Opening the door could be tricky. He was as prepared as he could be when he re-opened the door. The water container sat in front of the door. He had a gun in his hand and another in his belt. He’d have had one in each hand if he hadn’t needed a hand, which held a long cooking utensil, to open the door.
The alien was sitting on the floor when the door opened, and the smell of urine and feces greeted him. “Long trip, huh,” he said, and gestured at the water. The alien rose, stretched, and nonchalantly walked out to the water, though he glanced right and left and then up and down. He sat down, sniffed the water, shrugged, and took a long draft. He stayed sitting after drinking.
Presenting himself as non-threatening, Torrill was pretty sure. It probably wasn’t because of his leg. He backed away and waved his gun at the alien and wondered if his normal color was green. It was a pale green, and Torrill noticed that there was now no sign of the thorns he’d felt earlier. He’d really have to watch out for that. Sidling along to the bridge, Torrill never turned his back on the alien. The limp was hardly noticeable. Could be it healed fast.
Torrill didn’t relish being trapped with it on the ship. ’Course he’d set up a hard metal mesh harness on one of the short benches. First, he let it look at the control board to see if it was familiar with it.