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.
As 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.