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Dragon's Egg (Cheela #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,814 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
“In science fiction there is only a handful of books that stretch the mind—and this is one of them.”—Arthur C. Clarke
In a moving story of sacrifice and triumph, human scientists establish a relationship with intelligent lifeforms—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 f
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published (first published May 1980)
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May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

Whose afraid of the 'science' part of the science-fiction equation? If you liked "The Martian" for the way Andy Weir communicates his enthusiasm for technology and science, get ready to (re)discover a hardcore classic of the genre. How hard? you might ask.

Although many times hotter than the Sun, the neutron star was not a hot ball of gas. Instead, the 67-billion-gee gravity field of the star had compressed its blazing matter into a solid ball with a thick crust of close-packed, neutron-ri
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, favourites
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
Liz Janet
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all of the greatest science-fiction books written at the time of this novel, this one seems to be one that is not as popular, or as read as it should be. It is a novel that explores so much more than many popular series.
Now that that is out of the way let us get something else out of the way too, this book is neither about eggs, nor is it about dragons, it is about a scientific discovery of a race called the cheela who live in a neutron star, the surface gravity it has, leads for them to be
Lucie Simone
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Mar 02, 2011 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Beyond Reality March 2011 SciFi Selection
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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!
May 26, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The concept of the book is that a neutron star passes near the solar system. Humans send a research spaceship to study it. While there, the humans discover there is an intelligent species living on the neutron star.

The book hops back and forth between what humans are doing (observing the neutron star from Earth, preparing the space mission, studying the star, and communicating with the other species) and what the aliens are doing. Because of the high energy on the neutron star and because of the
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ciencia-ficción
He dudado mucho sobre si ponerle tres estrellas por un hecho que en realidad queda sepultado por el gran logro del libro: contiene una de las descripciones de forma de vida extraterrestre más fascinantes, originales y mejor descritas que haya podido disfrutar y todo el concepto de la vida desarrollada en la estrella y las condiciones a la que se ve sometida son un tratado de lo que debe ser la ciencia ficción hard. Entonces, ¿cuál es el problema? Pues que a poco de avanzar el libro te das cuenta ...more
Vasil Kolev
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was nice. Some parts haven't aged very well, others seem somewhat naive (I pretty much expected a war at some point), but makes for a nice read.
Mark Campbell
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Decent sci-fi. Looking forward to reading the sequel.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Dragon's Egg is a story assembled out of a few disparate parts. There's the formation of a neutron star from a supernova, the discovery of said star by astronomers in 2020, an expedition to said star... and then there's what's happening on the surface of the neutron star, which proceeds through several different arcs.

That last, of course, is where the main imaginative elements of the novel come from. Incredibly, this is an exercise in hard SF, with the main speculative part dealing with the idea
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pablo Flores
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Some part of my conscience is scolding me for giving this one 4 stars, but I have to do it. At times, the scientific jargon is mind-numbing. And as a Christian, I'm pretty sure I don't agree with Forward's implied view of religion in general.

But it's an awesome premise that sustained my attention nonetheless. It takes some patience to get through the first 50 pages or so...There are a few conversations and narrations that leave you pretty certain they are not speaking English. The electromagneti
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sehr schöner recht kompakter Roman. Eine bestechende Idee, gut ausgeführt. Wie in so vielen Scifi-Roman hätte mir auch hier ein bisschen mehr Atmosphäre und Emotionen gefallen. Andererseits passt keine Charakter-Story zu diesem Plot. Das ist jetzt Nörgeln auf hohem Niveau. Das Büchlein bekommt meine Empfehlung.
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Realmente interesante. A veces no me enteraba cuando se ponía a explicar cosas sobre la física de la estrella de neutrones y tal, por desgracia, y no es un libro que enganche por estar lleno de acción o una trama emocionante. Es simplemente curioso ver como se va desarrollando la vida y la sociedad en la estrella.
Richard Laxton
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting read that has held up well over the years.

While the cultural development of the Cheela seemed to be a little anthropomorphic, the book serves to provide a interesting take on the first contact scenario.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Great idea. Poor execution.
May 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a novelization of a fanciful 1973 article by astronomer Frank Drake: suppose there was life on the surface of a neutron star; what kinds of beings would live there? It imagines intelligent beings living on the surface of a 70-billion-gee neutron star with a trillion-gauss magnetic field: blobs 5mm across 0.5mm tall, organisms as complex as humans made of degenerate matter interacting through nuclear forces instead of chemistry, who live roughly a million times faster than humans. Contact ...more
Gary Holt
Honestly, this book doesn't have that much of a plot, but it's quite interesting nonetheless.

It describes the emergence of an alien civilization on the surface of a neutron star, where the chemistry is nuclear rather than atomic because the gravity has crushed atoms. It's more like a "what if" book: what if an alien civilization could develop in such a different environment? What would the creatures have to look like? How would the very different physical environment affect things? And what happ
Peter Lehu
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, future
I'm intrigued by the concept of intelligent life that is very different than humans. This book is about the evolution of a civilization of intelligent tiny ameoba-like creatures with twelve eyes who experience time one million times faster than us. They live on a neutron star and have an almost two-dimensional existence due to the flattening effects of extreme gravity. Sounds great, but it turns out they act almost just like humans do. Would such a biologically different species really have the ...more
Sudharsan Saravanan
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-scifi
This is the first hard sci-fi book I have ever read so take my opinion with a pinch of salt. Book takes off with the discovery of magnetic monopoles as well as a neutron star named "Dragon's egg" which would pass our solar system. What follows is a space expedition to the neutron star where the crew come in contact with the natives, "Cheela". Since one second of the spaceship's time equals 2 years of Cheela's time, we get to see how the civilisation of Cheela is developed enough to have contact ...more
King Ævil
I'm one of the very few readers who thought that Robert Forward didn't put enough technical discussion into Dragon's Egg. An imaginative author could have crafted a fascinating story through wild speculation, even if the science turned out not to be correct (see, for example, Asimov's Lucky Starr series). The author could have developed the universe better from the human side, as well. The view of the sky from the low-orbit station must have been amazing; Larry Niven described it in detail in "N ...more
Ray Gardener
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Now this book is an absolute mind expander. Forward takes his scientific credentials and puts them into wonderful service writing a tale almost beyond imagining. When I first read it, I had to put it down now and then because it's just so... out there. And the best part is, it could happen, it really could. If you've seen the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Blink of an Eye" where the crew encounters a planet where time passes thousands of times faster, you owe it to yourself to read Dragon's Egg; Fo ...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.

More about Robert L. Forward...

Other Books in the Series

Cheela (2 books)
  • 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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