Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Jeffrey A. Carver
(1992, TOR Books)

Star Rigger, Book 2

A young woman, desperate to get back into space, enters into an abusive contract with a ship’s captain, during which she finds refuge with dragons in the flux medium she uses to fly the ship.



-- First reading (ebook)
February 24th to March 17th, 2018


I found the first part of the book to be the most interesting, in how the protagonist dealt with the abusive relationship. After agonizing about the decision to go with a registered captain, she ends up betraying herself, and pays dearly for it. The second part, where she meets the other rigger was fun, but not as interesting, and the final part, where they interfere with the evil in the dragon’s realm, was very simplistic. Except for Jael’s unique solution, that was the least interesting to me.

Spoiler review:

This book is almost two independent stories connected by a bridge story. In the first part, we get the fragile but determined Jael trying to get back into space, defying her father’s reputation as an abusive captain, then entering into an abusive relationship until she gets to her destination. The second story is a rescue of a dragon from an evil that has taken over the realm. It doesn’t take a lot of thought, and it’s mostly agonizing rather than action, but it works in the end. The bridge allows Jael to recover from the situation from the first story, and wonder if the dragons are real, before being thrust back into their realm.

I liked Jael, and the way she agonized about whether she should take an uncertified job as a rigger for a spaceship, or not. She’s being shut out, presumably because of the way her father treated employees, so her chances of getting back into space through a certified contract are almost nothing Her uncertainties even spill over into the shared net-space that her cousin uses to try and show her how good it felt to be in space with another rigger. It seems that her life is at an all-time low.

So when she confronts the person assigning riggers to spaceships, he finds her an uncertified captain, though it’s never explicitly stated that it’s uncertified. Captain Moburn is a manipulative and mean man, who immediately addicts Jael to the palisp, an alien device that manipulates pleasurable emotions. Jael knows it’s wrong, but one session with the palisp puts her directly under its influence, probably for the rest of her life. She spends as much time as she can in the flux, where she cannot be interrupted, and where Moburn has no control over her. He resents the time she spends in the flux, and gets mad when she doesn’t come out when he commands her to. I felt that her resentment and defiance built up very naturally, until she defies his commands to stay away from the mountains in the flux. This is a region where ships have been lost, though nobody believes the stories of actual dragons being present there.

I think the entire dragon realm is undeveloped. Even the first time, when Highwing confronts Jael about dueling riggers and is surprised that she gives her name, it made me wonder how she could possibly be the first to ever not want to duel with the dragons. Maybe it was just the combination of her self-doubt and Highwing’s contemplation, and the fact that he had lost his mate and evil was taking hold in the realm, though we didn’t know it at the time. Although Highwing took charge and basically subjected Jael to his own form of master-servant relationship, it feels different from the one she has with Moburn, and it’s necessary to start the healing process between her and her father. It also allows her to grow enough to confront her addiction, and even resist the palisp.

Finally, Moburn forces the palisp on her for her defiance. Although she enjoys the pleasure it brings, she manages to overcome it to throw it against the wall and destroy it. Moburn then tries to take her body sexually, and she manages to overwhelm him in the low gravity and evade him until they are locked together in the airlock, where she pushes him out into the flux, and he dematerializes. She flies the ship all alone to her destination.

The second part of the book deals with the investigation into losing her captain, and her meetings with Ar, an alien rigger, and a digital parrot Ed that lives in an artificial entertainment environment. I liked Ar, as sedate as he was, and the way his disbelief of her encounter with the dragons turned to understanding and acceptance once they were sent to that realm again. I found Ed to be annoying, in the way his parrot-speech was depicted, but he grew on me a bit as the story progressed. When they find that Ed is about to be discontinued, Jael and Ar steal him to bring on their next job together. He causes some trouble in the flux, but eventually gets them out of it, doing things the experienced riggers didn’t know was possible.

Eventually, out on their own, they encounter an anomaly in the flux, where they are torn from their route and land in the dragon realm again. It looks like the author wanted to invoke some sort of fantasy in this science fiction setting, because there’s talk of spells, evil beings that can take control of the realm using his fire, and so on. I suppose it works because everything takes place in the flux, which can form its own representations. A spell of magic in the flux might appear as something else in the normal universe.

Immediately Jael and Ar encounter the sons of Highwing, four of whom have turned to the dark side, but Windrush accepts them. Even by the end of the book, we don’t get the big picture of what happened (which I think is a good thing, as it leaves room for expansion), but we can surmise that some evil being from a realm even lower than the flux has taken over, and turned the dragons to darkness. Highwing’s garden has been destroyed, and the dragons have sentences him to death. Windrush takes them to his cave, where they are visited by another mysterious alien presence, and Jael decides she needs to rescue Highwing, even if it seems like suicide.

I really liked the way the author used the flux and its relationship to our normal space in the rescue. When Highwing is sent to normal space, Jael follows him by exiting the flux, and finds him attached to an asteroid about to enter the corona of a star. She extends the flux envelope (the way they’d do it with shields or a warp bubble on Star Trek) to encompass him, and pulls him back into the flux. This stresses the ship almost to the breaking point, and Ar is nervous and objectionable, but at this point, he’s helpless. Jael takes complete control of the situation, and even takes advantage of his paralysis, relying on his training to get them through the crisis.

While they rescue Highwing, the dragon dies. Yet Windrush and his brothers (except for one) are broken of the evil spell, and are ready to fight the evil. Presumably we’ll see more of them in the second book of the series.

I really liked the concept of the flux, where the riggers enter another domain and guide the ship between destinations, a sort of hyperspace. It’s up to the rigger’s imagination to determine what the route will look like. The flux has currents, so the concept has to match the flow, but sometimes Jael used a boat on a river, a hot-air balloon, herself soaring through the wind, and more. Ar set the ship as a bubble, especially when they were floating through ice. The representation of the route comes from whatever makes it easier for the rigger to concentrate, and was definitely the best concept in the book.

Jael and Ar return to normal space, where they have a lot to contemplate. The world that Ar thought he knows has been turned upside down, but they agree that it sounds too incredible to believe, so they can’t yet tell others. I doubt their secret can hold for long, though, as riggers might avoid the area due to superstition, but some do make it there.


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