A science fiction novel that revolves around a seemingly fantastic concept – a space elevator that re...moreOriginal review can be read at Layers of Thought.
A science fiction novel that revolves around a seemingly fantastic concept – a space elevator that reaches from the equator to geosynchronous orbit and will help to solve many of the world’s problems. The technology is based on reasonable extrapolations of today’s science.
Description: The earth is beset by a range of seemingly unsolvable issues that spell future disaster – environmental crises abound, oil supplies are dwindling causing oil prices to skyrocket, major economies are trying to overcome crippling deficits, and war is brewing in the Middle East. Meanwhile two brilliant and driven scientists have spent twenty years working on the science and engineering behind an incredible idea. They want to build an elevator that will reach 23,000 miles out into geosynchronous orbit, a project that would not only re-ignite space travel but would also help to solve many of the world’s energy problems – and ultimately help to abate environmental crises.
Gary and Eva Morgan have been quietly working under the guidance of their mentor, an ancient but revered rocket scientist who is something of a NASA legend. When they are told that the government can no longer fund their research budget, the project seems to be doomed and the Morgans are mortified. But their mentor has connections with dot.com legend Franklyn Smith, who has the vision, the immense wealth and the business savvy required to kick-start the project.
Slowly the team starts to turn the dream into a reality but they face huge odds – not just overwhelming technical challenges that need to be overcome, but also many powerful vested interests and some highly skeptical and vocal critics. The glittering goal cannot be reached without heroism, determination and sacrifice.
John’s thoughts: I do love the idea behind the story (and incidentally it is not a new one – Arthur C. Clarke wrote about the creation of a space elevator in his 1979 novel, The Fountains of Paradise). It involves great vision, huge technological obstacles and possible salvation from some of mankind’s most intractable problems. And yet Forstchen makes it sound like this can be done using some reasonable extrapolations from technology that is available today; he makes the idea and the story feel plausible. He also creates some interesting and three-dimensional characters, has an accessible writing style and has crafted a fast-paced and interesting plot. The technology was interesting, fascinating actually, but it didn’t clog up the read.
Where he loses me a bit is in his endless eulogizing of NASA. The book jacket does say that it is a “NASA-inspired work of fiction” so I guess I was forewarned, but I did find it a bit over the top. Certainly it would be nice to think that pure science and visionary goals can win out over blinkered politics and a short-term view of financial and business interests, but having to read so many times how great NASA was (and could be again) just proved to be a distraction from the story.
Still, I did enjoy this read and would recommend it to any science fiction fans who like their stories to be based in the near future and founded on plausible technology. I’d rate this book three stars. (less)
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A Space...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, this chronicles what happens when an international team is sent to Jupiter to investigate the fate of the 2001 mission.
John’s description: In 2001 the crew of the spaceship Discovery found a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter; it’s clearly an alien artifact. The spaceship’s computer (known as HAL) had started to act oddly and caused the death of all but one of the crew. David Bowman, the lone survivor, manages to disable HAL and then continues on with the mission. When he leaves Discovery and starts to explore the monolith he disappears, with his last words sent back to Earth being “My God, it’s full of stars!” But there is now a newly created version of Bowman, unobtrusively watching over Earth and humans, unsure of what his next steps should be.
Nine years later a joint Soviet-American team travels to Jupiter on a Soviet spaceship. The objectives are to find out all they possibly can about the 2001 mission from Discovery’s records, and to further investigate the monolith. A key to unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission is to resuscitate Discovery and to delve into HAL’s memory banks – so a vital member of the 2010 mission is the scientist who created HAL. There are another two Americans aboard who are deemed necessary, but the rest of the crew is Soviet. There are ongoing political tensions between the two countries and neither is happy about having to partner with the other, but there are some necessarily tight deadlines that have to be met, and only the Soviets have a ship that is ready in time. Inevitably the relationships between the crew factions are strained as the mission starts out.
As the ship gets nearer to Jupiter there are some big surprises in store; there is also the horrendously dangerous braking maneuver which entails circling Jupiter and using its gravity to help slow the ship down. Finally they rendezvous with the dead US ship, Discovery, and then start the arduous task of trying to bring it back to life. They also have to carefully bring the powerful HAL back online, unsure of what they will find and how it might react to the newcomers. Meanwhile the huge monolith seems to be inert and unperturbed by their presence. But by far the biggest shock is yet to come. And “Bowman” continues his watch and starts to flex some of his newfound powers.
John’s thoughts:2001: A Space Odyssey was such a classic movie, which was groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. The ending left some audience members scratching their heads a bit, though the resulting novel did clear things up at least somewhat (the movie was a result of collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, while Clarke followed up with the novel). In many ways it cried out for a sequel, but more than twenty years passed before Clarke released this novel.
It was a tough act to follow, but employing his usual gifts of huge imagination, technical credibility, and first-rate storytelling, Clarke did a terrific job. In common with most Clarke books, this is a really fine read. The futurism and science don’t get in the way at all, but rather add to what is a really cool story. This is an easy read – which is not to diminish the depth and complexity of the plot. And of course there are plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages.
It is not unusual in many science fiction books to find that characters are rather thin and under-developed, taking a back seat to “gee whiz” plots and grand visions, but that is not a problem that I have found with Clarke – the characters in this novel are interesting and have some depth, as are those in most of his books. (Though I must admit that this is my first Clark read in a long time and it was in my student days when I voraciously read his books, so maybe my memory is playing little tricks with me).
All in all, this is a great read that I’d recommend to any and all science fiction fans; though of course it has been out for a long time now so perhaps most have read it already. You don’t have to have read 2001 first as the key elements are recounted in 2010 - but it will help to provide a little added background and color. I’d also say that for non-science fiction fans who want to test the water, Arthur C. Clarke is a great place to start. I’d rate this book 4 stars.
P.S. It only just occurred to me how apt it is to rate science fiction novels using a system of stars! (less)
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an aston...moreOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an astonishing metaphysical shadow play”. What is real and what isn’t? What does real even mean?
John’s description: Set at some point in the future, the story revolves around Heath Ransom who is a very special kind of private investigator. He is a former police psychic and machine-enhanced “endovoyant” who is able to travel into etheric worlds in order to answer puzzles and to track down missing people.
Ransom is hired to find the consciousness of an extremely rich but comatose old woman and to try to bring it back to her body. However, while trying to track her down in the etheric world he finds a terrifying, dark vortex. Falling through the vortex he soon finds himself inhabiting the body of a young man who has just been poisoned by his girlfriend. This in turn leads him into an ever-darker investigation involving government conspiracies, mutants, corruption, torture, self-aware artificial intelligence, androids and attempted immortality.
In deadly danger himself, Ransom starts to jump back and forth between the two worlds. He then finds out that much of what he thought was real is in fact artificial and as paranoia and conspiracy abounds, he starts to doubt his own sanity.
John’s thoughts: Where to start? Well, it is a very interesting idea on which to base a novel. I like how it started and was quickly pulled into the plot. Soon, however, two things started to happen. Firstly, I started to hit some dense pieces of text that were so full of obscure words and complex ideas that I didn’t comprehend them even after a few re-reads. There weren’t loads of sections like this, but there were enough to make it a difficult read. Secondly, as the novel progressed, the underlying (and interesting) story almost disappeared into the background, seemingly having become just a vehicle to explore some complex concepts and ideas.
Nonetheless I stuck with it as Nasir did create an interesting future world and I did like many of his ideas. Sadly, for me the underlying story didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory ending; in fact I really disliked how the novel ends. Having spent so long building details and ideas, I think the ending is rushed and a bit glib.
Part way through the book I thought this was going to be a four-star read, but having lost the plot (almost literally) and not liking the conclusion, I’d only rate this three stars. Who would like it? Well the jacket references Philip K. Dick, as do some other reviews that I saw out there. If you like Dick’s ideas and world view, this book might well appeal to you. (less)