Thrice lucky with books I bought on speculation! I must have stepped in something. But whatever the cause, I cannot deny the appeal of E. William Brown’s Perilous Waif.
Alice Long isn’t your garden variety orphan...if she’s an orphan at all. In Brown’s vision of the future, there have been many developments. Most notable with regard to Alice is an advanced biotech that makes possible the prenatal enhancement of a baby. The possibilities include instructing her genome to sprout inorganic and very powerful “mods” as he grows, gradually providing him with powers that would make Superman turn Kryptonite green with envy. Alice has a lot of those mods, but when we meet her, she’s been deprived since shortly after birth of the nutrition that would allow her to mature properly.
So she escapes from the orphanage, enlists the aid of a “companion android” unable to complete a difficult mission under her own power, is taken in by a “Black Worlds” trader captain who commands an excessed battle cruiser, and is catapulted into a world so various, so well colored, and so brilliantly imaginative that Brown’s novel wins my highest accolade:
Gentle Reader, if you enjoy science fiction, and if you’re willing to read with attention, read this book. I’d lay odds that you will never encounter any novel that will delight you as widely and as greatly as Perilous Waif. It provides all the pleasures of Nathan Lowell’s wonderful Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series, amplified by Alice’s adventures and the extraordinary range of developments – technological and sociological – that Brown incorporates into his future vision. He even includes Appendices to explain some of his more daring scientific and technological motifs.
Three terrific books in a row, by two writers previously unknown to me, and none more than $3.99! What did I do right?