Much of the content of The Ship Who Sang was published in five parts over a nine-year period. The novel, a revised version of the previously published stories and a final chapter, is about Helva, who is born with severe physical disabilities. She is transferred into a metal shell and eventually becomes the “brain” of an intergalactic ship, partnered with a specially trained “brawn.”
On her first mission, Helva, a self-confident sixteen-year-old, falls in love with her brawn, Jennan. They share a love of music, and Helva quickly becomes known as the Ship Who Sang. Jennan is killed in a tragic accident. Helva watches him die but can do nothing to help.
After Jennan, Helva has a series of temporary brawns, although she very much wants a special partner of her own. Immediately after Jennan’s funeral, Helva and Theoda, a physiotherapist, are sent to Annigoni IV to aid in a rehabilitation program for the victims of a space plague. Next, Helva is paired with Kira for a three-year mission to transport fetuses to replenish a population sterilized by a radiation flare. Chadress Turo, another temporary brawn, travels with Helva and a group of actors to perform for and train a newly discovered race. Helva and her next brawn are hijacked by drug thieves. The brawn gives up and waits for rescue, but Helva manages to outsmart her captors and save the other kidnapped shell people.
After searching for ten years, Helva finally finds her perfect brawn, one who knows her strengths and weaknesses as she knows his. They manipulate the system to allow him, an administrator named Naill Parollan, to become her brawn. That is when Helva’s real adventures begin.