This is the sixth and last of Nathan Lowell's Trader's Tale series. What began as a Bildungsroman about a young man who finds a life of adventure and unexpected friendships among the stars now wraps up with Captain Ishmael Horatio Wong as he wrestles with starting up his own small shipping linen after a lifetime of working for other people.
The story is unexpectedly sad. Between Double Share and Captain's Share (books 4 and 5), the Trader's Tale series stopped being about a young man finding his way in the world and became the story of a middle-aged man who is going through the motions of a life gone stagnant. That feeling is amplified ten-fold in OWNER'S SHARE. Ishmael's world once seemed wide-open with possibilities; now it seems like a void with no center, no foundation, no resting place. Ishmael continues to bless and enrich the lives of the people he comes in contact with, leading them to become better versions of themselves without even realizing that he's doing it — but this does nothing to fill the yawning chasm in his own life.
Looking back, this has been a series about that most romantic of capitalist libertarian icons, the high-seas free trader: the man with nothing to hold him back, no one to tell him where to go or what to do, free to pursue his fortune wherever his wits and luck may take him. Ishmael has reached the top of this world: captain of his own ship, master of his own destiny, responsible to and for no one but the small group of crew whom he has chosen for his companions. Events of the previous books have left him, if not actually a wealthy man, certainly with the promise of great wealth as soon as the paperwork gets sorted out. Yet, in the words of U2, Ishmael still hasn't found what he's looking for. He can't bear to sit still — to stay in one place, put down roots and build a life — but his endless wandering is finally revealed for what it is: running away. One wonders, in fact, if he has ever stopped running away since his mother died. It is a stinging critique of the profit-seeking, adventure-seeking gospel that these sorts of stories are built around, and it creeps up so subtly that you don't realize what Lowell has hit you with until he's done it.
Though this is the last of the Trader's Tales, Lowell has said that this will not be the end of Ishmael's story. I'm glad, because while the book is deftly written and has unexpected emotional depth, this would just be too depressing of a place to stop. I want to see how Ishmael finally finds home, whatever home turns out to be for him. He has spent most of his life in the isolation of space, touching on civilization but never really a part of it. He's done a fine job of making a living, but I'd like to see him finally make a life.