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Dragon's Egg (Cheela #1)

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  3,701 ratings  ·  193 reviews
In a moving story of sacrifice and triumph, human scientists establish a relationship with intelligent life forms--the cheela--living on Dragon's Egg, a neutron star where one Earth hour is equivalent to hundreds of their years. The cheela culturally evolve from savagery to the discovery of science, and for a brief time men are their diligent teachers.
Paperback, 345 pages
Published February 29th 2000 by Del Rey Books (first published 1980)
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Mike Cooper
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27th out of 206 books — 349 voters
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15th out of 87 books — 81 voters

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Mar 27, 2008 Robert rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any lover of pure, excellent SF
Dragon's Egg has nothing to do with dragons -- the dragon's egg is a neutron star being visited by humans who are suspending themselves in a stationary orbit by means of a propulsion laser.

The laser light falls to and illuminates a small portion of the surface of the star. As it happens, the surface of the star has a "crust" of highly degenerate nuclear material, at densities and pressures that enable exotic nucleochemistry to occur -- nuclei with extended shape and structure that are "weakly" b
Once in a while, a novel appears that has everything unique to science fiction - a brilliant new idea, honest extrapolation of real science, a gripping story with fascinating alien characters, and the indefinable but essential sense of wonder. Not my words, an unattributed quote on the back on my paperback, but between that and Arthur C. Clarke's pull quote on the front, "Forward's book is a knockout. In science fiction there is only a handful of books that stretch the mind - and this is one of ...more
May 06, 2014 Jon added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Beyond Reality March 2011 SciFi Selection
This book is a fascinating, serious consideration of what life would be like on a neutron star. Given the gravity in such an environment turns everything into degenerate matter, molecules complex enough to support biology form by atomic nuclei sharing neutrons rather than electrons. Furthermore, the author postulates that in this high energy/density environment the creatures that have evolved here have a much higher rate of metabolism. One million times ours in fact - so that we get to see in ju ...more
Humankind discovers a close neutron star where extreme gravity rules, and intelligent (small) life has developed. Since the star spins so fast, "time" on the star progresses faster for the lifeforms - about 15 human minutes are one of their generation. A large part of the book focuses on the developments on the planet, and how the Cheela develop from stone age-like warriors to space-travellers surpassing humans.

This is hard SF with a focus on physics, and by hard I mean hard to the point of unr
Alright, here's the basic gist: intelligent life lives on a planet that rotates five times per second. Because of the speed of rotation, gravity is very strong, and the life forms come out very unusual. Meanwhile, we Earthlings have discovered this asteroid, and send a research team to check it out.

The thing is, not only do these creatures live on a quickly spinning planet, they LIVE faster than we do. They think faster, age faster, and develop faster. For each Earthling 15 minute period, a gen
Lucie Simone
I don't read much Sci-fi, but my brother bought me this book for my birthday, so I gave it a go. Aside from the setting being on a distant star and the main characters being tiny alien creatures, this book is really a study about the evolution of a species and its society. I was rapt by the developments these beings made as they progressed through their ultra short lifespans, creating religions, laws, philosophies and superstitions. A fascinating read!
This is "hard" science fiction, my favorite kind.
The plot is driven by believable, yet imaginative, consequences of physical laws.
What's important to me in an SF novel is that things make sense.
I love it when I get the feeling that the story is how it has to be.
This book is a perfect example.
Astrophysics sets the scene, and the characters do the discovering along side the reader.
It's so much fun!
This book really blew me away. It is one of the most imaginative and amazing stories I have read. Furthermore, Forward is a scientist with JPL so his science in the story is right on. His follow up, Star Quake was also pretty good, but nothing he wrote after that did much for me.
This is a surprisingly good novel of hard science fiction. VERY hard science fiction. The author described it as "a textbook on neutron star physics disguised as a novel." That is, indeed, what it feels like sometimes. An important difference, however, is that large parts of the book are taken up in the adventures of the cheela (aliens) who mark important accomplishments along the path of the cheela into contact with humans. There are many long chapters dealing with battles between cheela clans, ...more
Dustin Steinacker
"O Great Bright One. Brightest of all in the sky," Great-Crack intoned, all of her dozen eyes staring at the bright star while her undertread rhythmically pulsed the crust. "We thank You for saving us from the rolling walls of blue-white fire. We thank You for saving us from the choking clouds of poisonous red smoke that kill the plants and still the eggs. We thank You for leading us out of the land of starvation and lostness to Your Heaven."


Pretty much perfect hard sci-fi, easily one of the
Stephen Bennett
I like SciFi that has a firm foundation in real science, and Forward delivers this in spades with his book about life that evolves on the surface of a Neutron star. Humanity stumbles on the nearly invisible stellar remnant as it passes near earth, and we send an expedition to study the star before it flies past us.

The evolving intelligent life lives at roughly a million times our rate, and exists and thrives in an environment literally too crushing for us to imagine. We follow these creatures f
On the one hand, here we've got an extremely interesting high-concept sci-fi story — quite "hard" sci-fi up until they get so advanced as to be incomprehensible — written by a real physicist and aerospace engineer.

On the other hand … well, it also reads like it was written by a physicist, and not by an author. Every sentence is short and simple (unless it's detailing a scientific concept), to the point where I felt the need to check to make sure this wasn't meant to be a book for young children.
Peter Bensen
This was a formative book for me. There aren't many books that deal with aliens like these and I enjoyed Mr. Forward's treatment of the subject. It is a first contact story. It begged lots of questions for me, and I wished he wrote more about his characters. I really liked that the theme and arc of the story was simple but fascinating. It could so easily have been a boring topic. I don't want to give anything away, but I really recommend you read it sometime. There are not so many stories like t ...more
Rob Daly
This was an important book in my progress as a science fiction reader. Some of the concepts were brand new to me at the time, and I found the development of the story fascinating due to Forward's easy integration of hard Sci Fi elements into a plot that's easy to follow, yet not exactly predictable. There are some fundamental questions asked here, like "how do we define life?" and "Would life in a radically different form still share some of the drives and ask some of the same questions we ask o ...more
Prepare to experience the heartstopping action of blobs poking each other with sharp rocks, cheer blob pioneers climbing "impossibly high" cliffs merely twice their own height, blush at the suggestive nuances of seeing a blob's dorsal surface, and weep at the death of a blob prophet spreading the religious ecstasy of a lidar mapper.

Who knew the narrative of the entire civilization of alien amoebas would be so fascinating? I was annoyed each time it had to cut to the humans. While I admit I could
This has been a fun journey into hard science fiction.

At times it read more like a textbook than a story. But once I got over the science-y bits and focused on the storyline it was a lot easier to let the story just flow on its own.

This was a recommendation by my boyfriend. My kindle had died before my trip and whilst I had a book I was bringing to another friend on the journey to Australia, I was dreading the return flight journey back home because I'd hate to buy a random overpriced paperback
Šimon Podhajský
Take LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, mix it with Clarke's Out of the Sun and the more attentive-to-physics parts of Space Odyssey, and you get Dragon's Egg. This is hard SF at its most delightful. There are wrinkles, of course -- Forward's parallels between human and cheela history are a bit too cute sometimes; he struggles when he has tp write humans; and his attempts at positive portrayal of female scientists are a little peculiar and positively 1980s.

In the big picture, though, you get to rea
Kirsten Zirngibl
This was a fascinating piece of hard-SF, featuring some of the most scientifically exotic alien life I've encountered so far. It manages to lay out an engaging neutron star world, usually by showing rather than telling in a tour de force of world building. Even when it describes high physics, it doesn't fall prey to explaining theories as if in a textbook. And the science itself is a big part of the excitement!

It was a little slow to start (discovery of the neutron star), but I think the transit
This must be the geekiest sci-fi book ever. The author was probably beat up by the other geeks for lunch money. At times the book is filled with oceans of technical detail -- it reads like an engineering manual. There are even long appendices with complicated diagrams.

That being said, it is surely one of the most imaginative and greatest science fiction books.

The gimmick for the story is a race of intelligent creatures who live on the surface of a neutron star, and whose lives go by a million ti
I'm hard pressed to find a better example of hard SF that Dragon's Egg. I think I could actually feel my brain stretching to picture the world Robert L. Forward was describing. What kind of life could possibly live on the surface of a neutron star that rotates on the order of 10,000 revolutions per minute and with a gravity nearly a trillion times that of the Earth? How big would they be? How would they communicate? How would we know they're there? How could we possibly communicate and interact ...more
Pablo Flores
They say this book is a classic of the hard science fiction genre, and indeed it deserves that title. The author himself called it “a textbook on neutron star physics disguised as a novel”; I'd say it's more like the novelization of a species' history of science and technology. It could be viewed also as a series of stories, actually, since the characters that matter change all the time. The human characters are typically (and unabashedly) made of cardboard; the crew of the first-encounter ship ...more
John Zila
This is now one of my favorite hard science fiction books, up there with Forever War. The concept is very novel, and it explores several mind-bending scientific ideas that are fascinating to think about:
- the effects of ultra high gravity
- the idea of nuclear reaction "chemistry"
- non-visual primary sensory inputs
- the sociology of a society that develops 1000x faster than we do, and what it would look like to interact with such a society.

There are a few minor flaws where certain science is igno
Aurel Mihai
This reads similarly to Flatland in that it's a neat scientific idea expanded into a novel without much attention paid to the story's other aspects. Unfortunately, where Flatland is quite lean, Dragon's Egg tends to drone on. It could've been done in less than 100 pages. It could've been a novella, but nobody publishes novellas. So we have 100 pages of story and 200 pages of fluff. This nearly made me put it down before I met the inhabitants of the neutron star. I'm glad I read through the entir ...more
Jared Millet
Oh that was painful, but I finished it for my book club, and for science. And make no mistake: the science in this book is mind-bendingly excellent. Robert L. Forward's ideas (life on a neutron star, contact between cultures who exist at different time-scales, etc) are the kind of top-notch speculation that makes science fiction great.

But his writing is dreadful beyond belief.

I have never come across a writer in such desperate need of a co-author. Seriously, this book reads as if it were written
Nov 01, 2011 Conspiracychic rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: If you don't mind science bludgeoned over your head
I think I have to justify my three stars for this story (I would give it 3 and 3/4 if I could). The fault lies in me, not the story, but I have to be honest about my opinion. As a hard sci-fi novel, Dragon's Egg has a lot of technical terminology regarding physics on and around a neutron star. Now, I was prepared for science in a hard sci-fi novel, but at times it reads like a long-winded thesis rather than a story, and that sort of killed the squidge of enjoyment that would have bumped it to fo ...more
Es el primer libro que leo de ciencia-ficción dura (tras mi fallido intento de leer "Mundo Anillo" de Larry Niven) y tengo que decir que me ha quedado muy claro de que se trata esta "hard sci-fi". Pues creo que no me equivoco al afirmar que este libro, escrito por el "científico de fama mundial en el campo de la astronomía" Robert L. Forward, es uno de los mejores ejemplos de este subgénero.

Como tal, hay que reconocer que se trata de una obra muy elaborada a nivel científico. Los geeks interesad
Brian Maicke
While I am a fan of science fiction, hard SF usually leaves me wanting. Good science is great, but a good story is much more important to me than if the author got the principles of orbital mechanics correct. Thankfully this book has both. The book details the finding of intelligent life on a neutron star that is passing through our solar system.

It starts off a little bit slow for my taste, but once you are in the meat of the story, it moves a long at a good clip. It follows both the human astro
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This is qualified as hard sci-fi, although being written in 1980, some of the science is slightly out of date, although not badly. In the not-too-distant future, researchers at Caltech discover a star closer to Earth than any other, located just below the constellation Draco, hence the name Drgon's Egg. It's a neutron star--a collapsed star that is very, very small (about 20km across) and dense and not very bright. A few generations later humans send out a manned spaceship to investigate it more ...more
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Robert Lull Forward, commonly known as Robert L. Forward, (August 15, 1932 - September 21, 2002) was an American physicist and science fiction writer. His fiction is noted for its scientific credibility, and uses many ideas developed during his work as an aerospace engineer.

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Other Books in the Series

Cheela (3 books)
  • Starquake
  • Dragon's Egg / Starquake

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“After a short flurry of national and international concern over the "death of the Sun," the human race settled down to solving the insoluble problem in the best way that they knew - they ignored it and hoped it would go away.” 11 likes
“His eyes widened and he rapidly scanned page after page. There were many photographs, each followed by detailed diagrams of the internal structure of the various neutron stars. They ranged the gamut from very dense stars that were almost black holes to large bloated neutron stars that had a neutron core and a white-dwarf-star exterior. Some of the names were unfamiliar, but others, like the Vela pulsar and the Crab Nebula pulsar, were neutron stars known to the humans. “But the Crab Nebula pulsar is over 3000 light-years away!” Pierre exclaimed to himself. “They would have had to travel faster than the speed of light to have gone there to take those photographs in the past eight hours!” A quick search through the index found the answer. FASTER-THAN-LIGHT PROPULSION—THE CRYPTO-KEY TO THIS SECTION IS ENGRAVED ON A PYRAMID ON THE THIRD MOON OF THE SECOND PLANET OF EPSILON ERIDANI.” 0 likes
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