This is an omnibus edition containing C.J. Cherryh‘s Merchanter’s Luck (1982) and 40,000 in Gehanna (1983): two very different novels set in the same universe.
In Merchanter’s Luck, Sandor Kreja is the last survivor of a family that hauls freight across interstellar distances. He lives on the fringes, under a series of false identities, trying to avoid official notice. After a one-night stand with Allison Reilly of the enormous Dublin Again, she and three of her Reilly cousins sign on as his crew. The military hire them to ship a dangerous cargo.
Cherryh’s two protagonists are complex people with motives that are often unclear to themselves, let alone each other. They are prickly and difficult, but appealing characters even so.
And, of course, how could I not like a book with a couple of thousand Reillys, be they on- or off-stage?
40,000 in Gehanna follows the evolution of a lost colony over two centuries. Most of the initial colonists are lab-born clones, biddable, unquestioning, and hard-working, unlike their descendants. Within decades, the society degenerates into near savagery.
The humans are not the only sentient beings on the planet. The calibans are a lizard-like race, who the early colonists cannot understand at all. Later generations develop a rapport that mystifies the observers who rediscover the planet.
An interesting book, but not one that I enjoyed as much as the other. I found the calibans too alien and opaque.