Voyager in Night (1984) is a singleton SF novel in the Alliance-Union universe. Trishanamarandu-kepta is very old, 100,000 years in ship time, but it has spent so much duration in jumpspace that it is much older in terms of normal spacetime. It is also very large, with the mass of a starstation.
In this novel, the Company Wars are over and Alliance trade routes are expanding. Endeavor Station is being constructed and ships are converging on the system to provide needed raw materials and products. One of these ships is the Lindy, a very small mining ship, jury rigged from scraps and salvaged parts, with a crew of three.
Rafe Murray is the Old Man of the Lindy and his sister Jillian and her husband Paul Gaines are the crew. The Murrays are Merchant brats who were orphaned during the Company Wars and Paul was a stationer on Forgone. The trio has put everything they have into the Lindy.
Having no jump engines, the Lindy was brought to Endeavor aboard the can-hauler Rightwise. It is quickly put to work bringing in rock for the oreship/smelter Ajax. The crew has just finished their first tour and are going out for another load.
While they are gathering rock from the belt, Endeavor longscan detects a tandem jump into the system. At first they think that one of their supply ships is being pirated, but the John Liles sends transmissions claiming that the bogey is alien. The Lindy is within its projected flight path and pushes its puny engine to avoid the oncoming ship. Then they discover that the approaching craft is the bogey itself and they increase the acceleration.
Nothing works, for the bogey is aimed for them and decelerating to pull alongside. Rafe throws on the automatic pilot, but it throws them into a spin. He tries to disengage the autopilot, but blacks out with the spin only getting worse.
When Rafe awakens, he finds himself aboard the huge bogey and pieces of the Lindy collected around him. He soon discovers that Jillian and Paul are dead, but their holograms react to him as if they are alive. In addition, he is brought face-to-face with his own hologram.
Jillian and Paul have problems accepting their own death and revival as discorporate holograms. For Rafe Two, this acceptance is easier since his original body is alive and present. However, they soon learn that other copies are being activated and then additional templates are created.
< > is the dominant intelligence on the Trishanamarandu-kepta. < > has tried to save Jillian and Paul, but their bodies weaken, die and then decompose. Rafe is saved, but he is badly mauled by the Lindy's unchecked tumbling. < > controls the templates for the three humans and activates other copies to learn their thoughts. < > also deactivates -- kills -- some of these personae.
< > is opposed by </>, who is almost as strong as < >. However </> is now confined to his own part of the ship. Other crew and passengers are more or less insane; ((())) flies around the ship screaming and ==== has become a cannibal.
This novel is an early example of personae existing within a computer, but interacting with the real environment. The various persona are intelligent and responsive to stimuli. Indeed, they seem to be alive.
While the author has written many stories about humans living within an alien environment, this tale takes that plot almost to absurd extremes. Human persona dwelling within computers was really way out at the time of publication. However, this novel doesn't get bogged down in the techniques of such incarnation, but rather assumes that such technology is so advanced that it might as well be magic.
Highly recommended for Cherryh fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of really way out adventures with alien technology.
-Arthur W. Jordin