The sixth and final book in the Hooded Swan series by Brian Stableford (1975) neatly ties up space pilot Grainger’s relationship with employer Titus Charlot and the mind parasite he calls ‘the wind’.
As before, it’s first person narrative; a narrator we’ve got to know over the series. And as he must survive to tell the tale, Grainger can occasionally telegraph events to come: ‘Though I didn’t know it, a fragment of darkness from the long shadow of my past was waiting for me in the clearing-house. It just hadn’t caught up with me, it was already ahead of me.’ (p14)
In Grainger’s absence (jail, idling, that sort of thing), Charlot had sent off the sister vessel crewed by Eve and Captain Nick to investigate the mysterious Nightingale nebula. They were feared lost… Grainger realised that he might love Eve so he has to take the Hooded Swan into the nebula to track down the Sister Swan.
The Nightingale nebula is another of Stableford’s fascinating creations, but it would be unfair to reveal more about it. Not a nebula as we know it, a bit like a lens, but knowledge concerning its existence might further scientific knowledge, or so Charlot believed. Grainger thought: It could kill me. And the wind replied, ‘Time is killing everybody. Everybody dies.’ Not much comfort there, then.
At last, more is revealed about ‘the mind’. It has been worth waiting for. ‘I have no name’, it says… ‘We possess no shape, no form to be labelled. We live within. What we have, and what we are, we share… I came to you on the wind, and you think of me still as a wind that talked, not as a being that was only a part of the wind.’ (p129)
It’s a poignant, fitting ending. About loss, life, love, hate… and everything.