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Robert Reed is a Hugo Award winning (and frequently Hugo Award nominated) science fiction author. He has written over 140 (mostly unconnected) short stories, though he does write stories in his "Great Ship" universe. Reed typically writes hard science fiction. Many of his works feature Immortality.

The "Great Ship" universe takes place in the far future, where a human probe discovers an abandoned ship, larger than Jupiter, streaking in towards the Milky Way. The ship is claimed by humanity, and boosted into orbit moving through the Milky Way, where it functions like a large, mobile pleasure world. The Ship has millions of chambers kilometers across, capable of being modified to suit almost any form of life. The wealthiest beings in the galaxy boost towards the ship on thin torchships, and buy berths using bits of technology and information. The immortal passengers [1]

Marrow and The Well Of Stars deals with the discovery of Marrow, a hidden world in the previously unknown core of the Ship, from the point of view of Washen, a high ranking Captain, Pamir, a Jerkass disgraced captain, and Miocene, the First Chair (second in command) of the ship. Well of Stars takes place several hundred years after Marrow's conclusion.

Some of Reed's older, out of print short stories can be read for free on his website

The Great Ship series :

  • Novels:
    • Marrow
    • The Well of Stars
  • Short stories and novellas:
    • Aeon's Child
    • Marrow
    • Mere
    • The Remoras

Independent novels :

  • The Leeshore
  • Down the Bright Way
  • Sister Alice
  • Beyond the Veil of Stars
    • Beneath a Gated Sky
  • The Remarkables

Short story collections :

  • The Cuckoo's Boys
  • The Dragons of Springplace



Tropes featured in the Great Ship series:

  • And I Must Scream: Mere starts with a child being kept barely alive (yet full conscious) through a 10,000 year voyage - most of which was spent screaming in pain and from insanity.
  • Alien Blood: Humanity has very dark, almost black blood. Orleans, a Remora, has black blood with the consistency of ketchup.
  • All the Myriad Ways: Hyperfiber is so strong because it spreads any impact or heat damage across thousands of dimensions. In a more straight example, The Tila from Mere have quantum structures in their brain that causes an "aura" around objects they see - which they interpret as glimpses of thousands of alternate realities.
  • Antimatter: A popular choice for ship propulsion, as you only need very small amounts of it to go extremely fast.
  • Apocalypse How: The end of Mere ends with a binary star collapsing in on itself, wiping out all life in the system
  • Aura Vision: The Tila in Mere see faint auras around objects.
  • Auto Doc: Autodocs are primarily used for repairing mutated genes, rather than blunt trauma usually seen in other stories.
  • Big Dumb Object: The Great Ship. it is a starship the size of Jupiter, made of the highest grade hyperfiber. Discovered streaking towards the Milky Way at a third the speed of light by a human built probe, its origin is unknown (the area behind it is the emptiest part of the universe), it carries an entire world inside it, and it has tens of millions of caverns and fusion reactors all there to make the interior livable for almost any species. It may be as old as the universe, and one character suggested that it created the universe, or functions as a control center for it - the visible universe simply being another layer to the ship's hull.
  • Binary Suns: The Tila's solar system in Mere has two stars in decaying orbits around each other.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Harum-sacrums have two mouths: one for breathing and talking, one for eating.
  • Body Horror: Remoras are extremely disturbing. One of them is described as having photosensitive hairs in the pits of their eye sockets instead of regular eyes.
  • Brain-Computer Interface: Keyboards and such are almost never seen, as everything is done wirelessly
  • Brain Uploading: Almost all humans depicted have ceramic, artificial brains, which are nearly indestructible.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted. While it's not hard to get around, it's extremely dangerous - when you're moving at a significant percent of the speed of light, a few stray atoms of hydrogen can rip through your hyperfiber shield and annihilate your ship instantly; the dangers of interstellar travel is what makes the Great Ship such a popular destination, as the shallowest habitat in the Ship are buried under several kilometers of hyperfiber.
  • Cool Starship: The Great Ship.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Averted. A Is in robotic bodies keep their "brain" in the chest.
  • Death World: Marrow in Marrow
  • Electronic Eyes: Mere gets these in Mere, to see the world in a way similar to the Tila
  • Eye Scream: Mere in Mere carves out her own eyes with a knife.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Averted; FTL is completely impossible.
  • Fling a Light Into the Future: The end of Mere has the Tila launching Mere (in a salvaged wreck) and their entire history and art, towards the Great Ship.
  • Genius Loci: The Great Ship has a "voice" spaced out at the beginning of some chapters in Marrow and The Well of Stars. However, it is never shown to interact with the passengers.
    • Gaians are entities that are effectively entire ecosystems - one Gaian covers an entire planet. Some are sentient, others are not.
  • Goal-Oriented Evolution: Remoras direct their mutations to be useful.
  • Go Mad From the Isolation: Mere spent ten thousand years in complete isolation inside a barely functioning ship. She is thoroughly insane when the ship crash lands on the Tila's planet.
  • Healing Factor: Humans and some other species have artificial "emergency genes", which will re-purpose matter in their body to heal wounds. The genes will keep on working until the only thing left is the brain - keep chopping off legs and arms and the genes will start re-purposing largely unneeded organs to regrow them.
  • Hollow World: The Great Ship, to an extent. It's the size of Jupiter, and full of billions of passageways and caverns. Inside the ship's hollow core is an entire world suspended by energy barriers.
  • Humans Are Special: While humanity is not particularly special normally, they control the Great Ship, making them the richest and most knowledgeable species in the galaxy.
  • Human Subspecies: The Remoras, which are the descendants of the crews sent to repair the hull of the Great Ship. They've been twisted by the hard radiation of empty space, and they actively cultivate their mutations.
  • Jerkass: Pamir.
  • Immortality Begins At Twenty
  • Interspecies Romance: Considering that everyone is immortal they uh, experiment quite a lot.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: The only character described as having a specific set of racial features is Quee Lee - who is the only character from old Earth.
  • Large and In Charge: The Master captain. Due to a huge amount of implants, she is packed with different methods of dissipating the implants' heat - which causes her to be very large.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome
  • Mechanical Lifeforms
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: The Great Ship series follows almost all known laws of physics - the one exception is hyperfiber, which gains its strength from sharing energy across thousands of alternate realities; though it may not be entirely wrong, as some scientists propose that gravity is so weak because it shares its impact across multiple universal planes.
  • The Mutiny: Miocene and Till. Mostly bloodless, until Pamir and the Remoras fight back to restore the ship to the original owners.
  • The Needless: Humans rarely need to eat, and do it mostly for pleasure.
  • Neural Implanting: Nexuses, which are implanted into one's body (or in say, a house), and mentally accessed for information or skills when needed.
  • No Name Given: The Master captain. Her name is said a grand total of twice - Liza.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Since everyone is effectively immortal, most safety equipment is non-existent unless it could damage the brain. Some ships will accelerate at a hundred g's, crushing the bones of the pilot into dust, then the pilot's emergency genes will kick in to mend the bones.
  • Pro-Human Transhuman: Despite most of the characters being immortal transhumans that can survive being dipped in lava, they still consider the Remoras and the Space Amish humans that live a mere century to be their brethren.
  • Orion Drive: If a ship isn't powered by a fusion rocket or an antimatter rocket, it uses an Orion Drive (called a "bomb drive" in the stories), loaded with nuclear bombs.
  • Ragnarok Proofing: The Great Ship spent at least several hundred million years drifting towards the Milky Way, but it only sustained superficial damage to it exterior shell. All the original technology in it still functions flawlessly. The Matter-antimatter reactor inside Marrow still functions after billions of years.
  • Reactionless Drive: The Great Ship's true propulsion is this - only discovered at the end of The Well of Stars.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Whale-like aliens are encoutnered in The Well of Stars, who talk via radio wave bursts and worship a nearby gas giant.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. The Great Ship will take hundreds of thousands of years to complete one circle around the Milky Way. Travel is extremely slow - a small ship spends 900 years accelerating to near lightspeed in order to reach the Great Ship.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Most A Is are at human level or above - even the houses and ships.
  • Society of Immortals: 99% of humanity is immortal.
  • Space Amish: Some humans forgo the ceramic brain and most of the emergency genes, instead living short lives.
  • Starfish Aliens: Almost all of the inhabitants of the Great Ship. It's notable when the aliens are not Starfish Aliens
  • Starship Luxurious: The Great Ship. Thousands of luxurious canyons, beaches, oceans are among the natural formations inside the Jupiter sized ship. In terms of space, the prisoners are guaranteed at least 10,000 cubic meters of personal space. Passengers can claim rooms larger than Manhattan very easily.
  • Stone Wall: The Great Ship. After humanity claimed the derelict, whole swarms of alien ships started showing up to try and capture it. The humans on-board simply closed the hyperfiber airlocks on the star ports and waited until the attackers ran out of fuel or ammunition.
  • Transhuman: Almost all seen human characters have huge amounts of genetic modifications and implants. Emergency genes are artificial genes that all humans have, which can do some extreme modifications to the body in order to preserve the brain.
  • Time Abyss: Practically all the main characters of Marrow are at least several hundred thousand years old. Qeng Lee, a minor character, was born on Earth, before the immortality treatments.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: Used in Aeons Child - a starship fusion engine was brought into the ship to use as a last ditch weapon to purge a cavern of a Gaian
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: The emergency genes and autodocs have effectively wiped out all diseases
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald are all popular building materials. Diamond is used in place of glass on almost everything, and the others are just pretty to look at but not particularly valuable.

Reed's stand-alone novels feature the following tropes:

  • AI Is a Crapshoot: One of the advanced Earths in Down the Bright Way was attacked by corrupted Von Neumann mining ships.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: In The Remarkables, all the planets shown are Earthlike, because humanity terraforms everything they colonize
  • All the Myriad Ways: Down the Bright Way - the universes extend in two directions out from each other, and each universe is slightly different from the next, or exactly the same.
  • Becoming the Mask: Kyle in Down the Bright Way impersonates Wanderers, and considers his "new" life to be far better than before he started acting like a Wanderer.
  • Benevolent Human Subspecies Invasion: The Wanderers in Down the Bright Way try to stabilize the politics of the Earths that they visit, re-introduce extinct species, and slowly introduce new sciences
  • Body Surf: Moliak in Down the Bright Way would kidnap Wanderers, and overwrite their hard-memories with his own.
  • Brain Uploading: Down the Bright Way has hard-memory, which are ceramic solid state hard drives implanted into the skull. When a Wanderer is near death, their memories are automatically backed up into the hard memory, which is more durable than their fleshy body is. The Founder's Archives are composed of millions of uploaded Founders, who use elaborate simulations to keep themselves entertained.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Jy in Down the Bright Way mentions how it would be easier to colonize the galaxy with Founder technology than it would be to colonize the different Earths of the Bright.
  • Death World: Some Earths in Down the Bright Way have gone through intense nuclear wars, which killed off humanity on that Earth - leaving only their machines alive, to keep fighting and producing more weapons.
  • Deus Est Machina: An artificial god is built in The Leeshore using what is essentially computronium. The god is not nice.
  • The Empath: Ranier in The Remarkables is sensitive to pain from other creatures with central nervous systems, due to self-replicating implants he received.
  • The Fog of Ages: The original Traveller in Down The Bright Way is over a million years old, and must make constant decisions on what memories to keep or discard.
  • Hand Blast: An ability available to the fighting-gloves worn by Moliak and Cotton in Down the Bright Way
  • Humans Are Bastards: The UnFound in Down the Bright Way, a tribal society that knows nothing besides total war - everything not part of the tribe is an enemy and must be killed.
  • Human Subspecies: Evolution diverged around the time of the great apes in Down the Bright Way, so there are at least a million subspecies of humanity. Most are largely similar to regular humans, but some (like the Founders) resemble apes in appearance more than humans.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The residents of the "Termite Mound" earth in Down the Bright Way have a caste system, and each caste has genetic tailored metabolisms. Those born in the upper caste lives at extreme speed, constantly eating, and die of old age in their 20s.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Cotton in Down the Bright Way
  • Starfish Alien: The Remarkables in The Remarkables. As larva, they're like squids. As a juvenile, they resemble room-sized sea urchins, covered in poisonous barbs and griping tentacles. As adults, they are rooted into place like a willow tree.
  • Star-Killing: Used by Moliak to wipe out the UnFound earths in Down The Bright Way
  • Terraform: Used in the Realm in The Remarkables to make colonized worlds peaceful, park-like copies of Earth.

Reed's stand-alone short stories feature the following tropes:

  • Aliens Are Bastards: Five Thrillers. Aliens try to destroy the Earth with a solar flare because they can.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: A Billion Eves has the Ripper device, which transports a large area into an adjacent universe. The story takes place in one of potentially thousands of settled Earths.
  • Apocalypse How: Earth in Waging Good was bombed into a dead husk from its rebelling colonies. The ground is described as being lifeless as the lunar regolith.
  • Brain Uploading:
    • In Finished, the brain is uploaded in a destructive process when someone is "finished". The analyzed brain patterns and memories are inserted into a new, artificial body.
    • In Winemaster, a large percentage of the educated population downloads their personalities into tiny - and extremely fast - bodies. They live an hour like a person lives a year, and their brains are so compact that heavy atoms can erase memories.
  • Cloning Blues: The Cuckoo's Boys revolves around the aftermath of a genius biologist creating a virus which will impregnate ovulating women with his genetic code, effectively creating millions of copies of himself - the clones are born like normal people and are no different from a regular person aside from a higher average IQ, but since they share the same general appearance (that of their creator), they are targeted by fanatics.
  • Death World: Earth in Waging Good has an atmosphere pumped full of microscopic war machines, which enter the blood stream and violently explode in the head, viruses which infect pregnant women and turn the fetus into a poison factory or Tyke Bomb, good ol' radiation, and chemical warfare agents.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: Five Thrillers ends with the President telling whoever is listening to murder, steal, and loot as it's the only way to survive the incoming solar flare.
  • Generation Ship: Appears in The Children's Crusade, which is crewed by robots, with the colonists being essentially cargo
    • A Buick functions like a Generation Ship in Winemaster - the inhabitants, robots with human minds, live extremely fast, so several dozen generations go by during its drive from the United States to Canada.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Stated by the immortal robotic crew of the Generation Ship in Chrysalis - they were programmed to believe that all sentient races eventually destroy themselves in devastating interstellar wars.
  • Mercy Kill: In the short story, Decency, a malfunctioning alien ship crash lands on Earth, leaving the pilot barely alive. A security guard at the compound where the alien is guarded/studied does a Mercy Kill on the suffering alien.
  • Precursors: The Makers in Down the Bright Way, who constructed the Bright, which connects all the separate Earths together.
  • Solar Sail: A ruined alien solar sail ship crash lands on Earth in Decency.
  • Uterine Replicator: Winemaster has one for the robotic humans. It builds a child in the standard, tiny robotic body, and configures neural pathways to be like that of a baby.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the short story, Finished, the state of your mind when you are "finished" (given an artificial body) affects how you live the rest of your life, as the hard-memory in the artificial brain doesn't adapt. If you are finished in a happy mood, you'll typically be very happy. If you are finished while in horrible pain, you'll be in horrible pain as long as you are alive...

Notes

  1. Humanity and most of the passengers have been made effectively immortal due to "emergency genes"; artificial constructs that their genetically engineered bodies make, which repairs damage (age, disease, blunt trauma, decapitation) by burning excess mass or simply putting the brain into a very deep hibernation
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