The fourth by New Zealander Mann (The Eye of the Queen, 1983, etc.--not reviewed): a complex study of a spaceship disaster in a well-drawn multicultural future society. The Wulf of the title is the narrator: a robot scribe whose warm, sympathetic voice is one of the chief attractions here. A survivor from a period of genocidal interstellar conflict, Wulf now works for the benevolent religious Order of St. Francis Dionysus and is charged with aiding the recovery of John Wilberfoss, captain of the doomed hospital starship Nightingale. We hear about Wilberfoss's childhood on a dreary farm world, where he killed a man and served a prison sentence, to his marriage with an alien woman, to his election as captain of the great ship, and on to the events leading to the tragic conclusion of its mission. In between bits of narrative, Wulf inserts history, songs, legends, and rumors, creating a mosaic view of a detailed, lived-in, organic-feeling future. Mann has created several distinctive alien species and fringe human cultures whose habits and customs often suggest additional levels of meaning without ever quite falling into outright allegory. Mann manages to talk about important human issues (original sin, genocide) without sacrificing old-fashioned storytelling and entertainment: impressive and well worth reading.