Panglor Balef is an unfairly disgraced space pilot, struggling to support himself and his empathic pet ou-ralot with ground-based work, when he is coerced into accepting a mission of murder. He's to pilot an old freighter to a near-collision with another freighter from a large, successful company--Balef's hated former employer. The point is to force the ship to make a bad entry into "foreshortened" space--the technological trick that allows faster-than-light travel--so that it will be lost in limbo and never reach its destination.
Panglor hates his former employer, but he's not a killer, and he's not stupid. He takes off intending to find some way to evade the trap if at all possible. His life doesn't get easier when he discovers he has a stowaway, Alo, an impossibly annoying young woman he encountered briefly on the space station. The frightening encounter at the interception point lands all of them--Panglor, his stowaway, and the target ship, Deerfield, in disaster. They successfully entered foreshortening, but they exit at an abandoned system--abandoned because of the bizarre events and numerous ship losses that happened there. They're trapped in an area of madly shifting reality.
This the prequel to the Star Rigger universe, and Panglor has discovered what is known in the books set later in the sequence as "the flux." It's always a question whether to read a series in internal order or publication order. I think this is a case where publication order is the right choice. Panglor will make more sense if the reader knows where this is going. Carver has a clear and direct story-telling style, and his characters are solid and convincing. There are real villains, but most people try to do the right thing. Alo is a smart, tough, resourceful character, and she more than pulls her weight on this bizarre trip (which has some resemblance, at times, to descriptions of LSD trips). Since the publication date is 1980, along with the relatively small total number that we see, it's probably not fair to ask why we don't see any other female spacers.
All in all, this is a solid, enjoyable read, especially if you're already familiar with the Star Rigger universe.
I bought this book.