All These Worlds by Dennis E. Taylor
I finished the book less then twelve hours after getting it (and about half of that time was working) It is quite good.
It does conclude all the major plot lines of the previous two books, the others, the Deltan’s, the Pav, the Brazilian probe, and the humans on the earth. It does this with grace and without feeling rushed. And of course it also does not resort to technology that resembles magic or similar easy outs.
The book explores further on the idea of clone divergence and how the various Bob’s will be spending eternity.
It would be interesting if the next book picks up a couple centuries down the line, to see how far the Bobs will have gotten and what they will be doing.
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A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke
I normally review new books but I am making an exception for this classic by one of the grandmasters of science fiction himself, Sir Arthur C Clark.
I am doing this partly because the book is similar to both Passengers and in some ways to the Martian. Reading it, its amazing to think it was published in 1961, before Apollo was even on the drawing board. While there are a few things that show it’s age, the science is amazingly good overall.
One thing I very much like about it is that its a very human disaster story, in this way it reminds me of Passengers. There really are no bad guys, no earth shattering consequences of failure, just the lives of twenty-two people.
In the story the moon has a small but notable number of tourists every year. Its costly but affordable for thousands of people (I get the impression you need to have six figures income). One of the spots that tourists go is called the Sea of Thirst. The Sea of Thirst if a large set of interconnected craters that are full of dust. Dust that in most places of the moon is less then an inch thick, but in the sea it can be more then a hundred feet thick. This dust flows like water, and is as dense as rock.
The Selene is a craft the size of large bus that goes over the sea in a way similar to a jetski. They are several hours out when a large bubble of gas from below them erupts and causes the normally stable surface to open up and swallow them.
The book follows two main threads, first the people on the Selene. The tensions of the people are written realistically. The significant problem of how to stay keep everyone calm when you have a week of air left and nothing whatsoever you can do to help yourself.
The second thread centers on Chief Engineer of Earthside Lawrence. When he first has to find out what happened when the Selene went missing, then how to get them back. Remember that the dust may act like a liquid but it is still rock. The Selene can’t even transmit through it. Then how do you get to them and get them out?
There is even a much shorter third thread about a rather prickly astronomer who helps early on, and how it changes him.
This book is a good example of how science can help tell good stories, rather then hold them back by placing limits on what you can do. Many of the problems the Selene has are logical and predictable but so outside what anyone has dealt with that they fail to see the problem until almost too late.
If you like science fiction disaster stories you will like this book, or for that matter if you want a good hard science fiction.
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Date Night on Union Station by E.M. Foner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I originally read Date Night (First in the earthcent series) because I read a few good reviews and it was both short and cheap.
As of now there are 12 stories that are more long novellas then novels. I normally don’t go for stories of this length but for Earthcent it works.
Roughly two generations before the start of Date Night some very powerful AI’s saw that earth was on the brink of an economic collapse that could have taken centuries to recover from so they stepped up to make us a protectorate.
Earthcent is the diplomatic and quasi governmental arm that the AI’s created.
The stories are the opposite of what you expect. They are about the mostly normal problems that a growing list of characters have. It is sort of a slice of life with sci-fi problems, like how to attract alien businesses to earth (so we can be taught how to make some advanced tech) and how to deal with counterfeit earth exports. All this is done without violence. It is nice to see sci-fi stories which could not double as action movies. In place of the action, it has humor. And while not Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy it has made me laugh out loud more then once.
I will say though that there is a large cast of characters that grows with each story so its best to read them close together.
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Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Spin is a high concept novel. It starts with one idea then extrapolates from there.
The idea is that suddenly a sphere surrounds the earth, and the stars go out. We learn that time passes much faster for us then the rest of the universe, so much faster that in forty or fifty years, were the barrier to fall (it was providing us with normal sunlight, tides and such) we would all die because the sun would no longer be able to support life on earth.
More then anything, it’s a disaster story. Its told from the point of view of a person who is adjacent to people who are studying the spin, and making decisions, even though he is not. It takes place over a long period of time. It starts when the main character is ten and ends when he is fortyish.
It is a very intelligent, if pessimistic, projection of how people would react and how the world at large would react.
I will say that its not big on character arc’s. There are some but its not a focus of the book. It reads more like the diary of the best friend of a important figure.
While the book did drag on a bit it is a very good story, I am looking forward to reading the sequels.
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