I read this in UK, I think it was hardcover, possibly early eighties.

A woman is mind transferring around the galaxy for the 'good side', she is trying to get various organisations to unite against the common enemy who want to destroy everything (I can't recall any names or description of the bad side)

As part of this she shunts into the body of a female slave on a starship. The starship owner is an alien who is (I think!) something like a 12 foot tall Mantis. These slavers have lots of slaves on their ships who are under some kind of mental thrall to obey. However the Mantis are also technically on the good side and sometimes coordinate their fleets to fight in alliance, this is what the female protagonist has been sent to achieve.

When she gets aboard she swiftly learns the enemy had got there first, the Mantis is being held in a compulsion field so he has to obey or suffer agonising nerve pain , the compulsion field also zaps him if he contemplates escaping so he has to stand there basically thinking happy thoughts. To keep him alive his slaves take him food and rub oil into his chitin etc.

Somehow, without consciously thinking of escape, he manages to communicate to his slave girl that she should throw his food over him when next she serves him. She gets the cook slaves to help prepare an extra large portion, even though they live a life of drudgery they prefer it to death so they assist their insectile master.

She throws the food and the compulsion field fizzles out for a few seconds but that's enough for the Mantis to sieze control and kill the boarders. She then mind transfers out to somewhere new but the rest has faded in my memory


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This is Chaining the Lady, by Piers Anthony, the second book in the Cluster trilogy. The premise of the Cluster trilogy is that most sentient life forms have Kirlian auras, and that with the right technology, you can transfer someone's aura - and therefore their personality - into another person, even across vast distances. This is the primary means of travel, though it is only available to those with unusually strong auras. The Milky Way galaxy is politically fragmented and under attack by the more unified Andromeda galaxy, which wishes to extract all the energy from our galaxy, destroying it in the process.

The scene you are remembering is in chapter 12, when the protagonist (Melody) transfers to a Canopian ship which has been captured by agents from Andromeda. The Canopians are indeed insectoid, though their slaves are humanoid. The Canopian Captain (or Drone, though this is a title rather than a name) is confined by means of a pain-box and sheet laser cell.

It doesn't quite go the way you remembered it, but it was pretty close - Melody was in the body of a slave and was ordered to feed the Drone; he did not eat his entire portion, providing her with the clue that she could use the food cannister as a weapon to distract the guard for long enough to allow her to free the Drone, at which point he killed the guard, allowing the Canopian ship to be recaptured from the invaders.

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