Finity's Endby C. J. Cherryh
Warner Books 1997
ISBN 0 446 52072 1
Eighteen years, station time, after the end of the Company Wars and the events in "Downbelow Station", the super-freighter Finity’s End returns to Pell Station. The Neiharts of Finity’s End have two missions – to establish a legitimate trade network that will support all Merchanters, cut out the Mazianni, and secure the peace; and to retrieve Fletcher Neihart, son of a pregnant crewmember that Finity’s End had to leave behind during the war.
Fletcher’s mother committed suicide when he was five and he has spent the intervening years being shuffled from foster-family to foster-family as Pell Station has tried to keep him out of any serious trouble. Finally, things are looking up for Fletcher as he has found something that interests and fully occupies him – planetology and the study of the alien hsia of Downbelow. The last thing he wants is to be dragged into space, amongst a crowd of strangers desperate to claim him as one of their own.
The war has been hard on the Neiharts of Finity’s End. Half the crew are dead, and an entire generation has been lost. After years of living nano-seconds from total destruction, the Neiharts have to relearn the arts of peace and trade again. Fairly, or unfairly, they see Fletcher and the junior-junior crewmembers as part of their hopes for the future.
Fletcher Neihart is another of Cherryh’s ‘outsider’ characters – he is dragged aboard Finity’s End resentful and angry that just as his life is starting to turn around, the family that abandoned him have ruined things for him again. The Neiharts find Fletcher as alien as the hsia he has befriended. Chronologically, he is as old as the senior-juniors, with a build and muscle-development to match. Emotionally and in the important areas of shipboard skills, Fletcher is on a par with the junior-juniors. Both sides have to take stock of their universe-view and reach an accommodation.
Woven in and around Fletcher’s personal journey are the threads of a wider societal and political story. The various factions of Alliance and Union are attempting to step back from the brink of war and work out a way forward into the peace that has been so dearly bought. War hero Captain James Neihart of Finity’s End sees further than most, as he remembers the peace before the war and the mistakes that were made at that time, and he sees in Fletcher, and Fletcher’s journey from Downbelow to far-flung Esperance Station, a continuation of the hsia Satin’s peace-dream that brought a cessation of conflict to Pell all those years ago.
"Finity’s End" is a great read, full of ideas for Traveller on what life on a family Merchanter might be like. There is an article at Wikipedia about "Finity’s End" with useful links to other C. J. Cherryh novels. There is also a review on the SF Site.
Other books by C.J. Cherryh: Merchanter's Luck     Tripoint