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Slow Train to Arcturus Hardcover – October 7, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baen; 1st Printing edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416555854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416555858
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,254,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Flint and Freer's latest collaboration (after 2007's Pyramid Power) doesn't bring anything original to space opera, but its fast pace and pulpy premise make for an engaging if shallow adventure. When a vast relic made up of massive bubbles approaches a star system inhabited by sentient space-faring aliens, a team of researchers is sent to investigate. Soon after the inquisitive aliens enter one of the bubbles, they're attacked by its murderously insane human inhabitants. Alien xenobiologist Kretz barely escapes into another bubble, and in order to get safely back to his ship, he must somehow traverse numerous virtually inaccessible environments, all populated by divergently evolving human societies. Flint and Freer's action-packed, often humorous story ultimately lacks substance but makes it up in fun. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Eric Flint is a popular star of SF and fantasy. His 1632, which launched the New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire series, sold out in hardcover almost immediately, followed by multiple printings in paperback. His first novel for Baen, Mother of Demons, was picked by SF Chronicle as a best novel of the year. He currently resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Dave Freer, author of The Forlorn and the critically acclaimed A Mankind Witch and of many articles in  scientific journals, is an expert on sharks and an accomplished rock climber, a wine-taster, a chef  and was an unwilling conscript in the “undeclared” South African-Angolan War. With Eric Flint he has co-authored Rats, Bats & Vats, The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly, Pyramid Power and Pyramid Scheme.  He has also collaborated with Mercedes Lackey and Eric Flint in a sweeping alternate history-fantasy set in the Renaissance. The first two books in the series, The Shadow of the Lion and This Rough Magic have been enthusiastically received by critics and readers. The trio have also produced a sequel to James H Schmitz’s classic The Witches of Karres, The Wizard of Karres. Freer lives in KwaZulu, with his wife Barbara, two sons, and far too many dogs and cats.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
Well written, and very interesting.
John Cooley
Highly recommended for anyone who has a soft spot for the strong, clever hero or heroine unfazed by long odds and many foes.
M. Williams
If you like hard science fiction, read this book.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. Williams on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The short version: A ripping yarn with big social ideas about the need for society to be big enough to value those at its frontiers and for those on the edge to lend their experiences worth by passing them on for others' benefit. I would buy this for a tween/teen or older without hesitation.

The long version: This is very much its own book, though it would be easy to compare this to a number of other works. Imagine "The Wizard of Oz" as written by J. Michael Straczynski or "The Canterbury Tales" as written by Isaac Asimov. Such comparisons can be drawn for the simple reason that "Slow Train to Arcturus" takes a classic narrative form, the physical journey that produces and represents an emotional and intellectual evolution, and sets it down as a science fiction tale with a couple of very interesting twists. It has plenty of leg to stand on as its own tale, however.

The plot itself is a ripping yarn that gets off to an engaging start by being told entirely from the perspective of an alien scientist for the first few chapters. We are given just enough introduction to the alien species whose encounter with humanity frames the story that we feel we can trust the narrator's take on the situation and are comfortable with their intent. The alien species is compellingly written, very human in their ambitions and their better natures but sufficiently different to inspire curiosity and a little wonder. They are an example of the very best of classic science fiction alien life: just different enough to be weird, and for much of the story its through their eyes that we see events and the reader has to parse their descriptions of things.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Arthur W. Jordin on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Slow Train to Arcturus (2008) is a standalone SF novel. The story is set in the mid-future over five centuries from now. The ship/habitat was launched in 2153, but the interception by Miran aliens took place in deep space about four centuries later.

In this novel, the Mirans detect an alien spacecraft approaching their sun at a velocity of 0.3 lightspeed. Checking their archives, they discover two centuries of data on the alien vessel. They decide to investigate the object more closely.

Mirans are generally claustrophobic and hate crowds. Since the spaceship is small and crowded, the crew were chosen for their relative comfort in such conditions. Moreover, Mirans start life as males and eventually transform to sessile females. Since they are larger and more experienced than the males, the females rule Miran society. All the crew are taking drugs to remain male.

The Mirans rendezvous with the alien vessel after a voyage of six years and over a distance of 1.8 lightyears from their home sun. Most of the crew were in drugged suspension for the trip. As they neared the alien vessel, the sleeping crew are awakened.

Kretz is the xenobiologist and engineer in the crew. Nobody thinks that a biologist will be necessary since the alien vessel is obviously a probe. Yet Kretz is among the crew because they can't go back to get anything they forgot.

Selna is the ship physician. He is close to changeover to a female. The drugs are just barely keeping him male.

Zawn is the archaeologist and leader of the crew. He should have a field day with the alien object.

Arbet is the deepspace radiation expert and pilot. He has been awake during the whole six years studying deepspace emissions.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Walt Boyes VINE VOICE on September 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dave Freer and Eric Flint have taken an interesting idea and used it to ring changes on Pilgrim's Progress. Imagine a starship made up of linked but not easily interconnected habitats in which many small utopian societies have created their cultures while traveling to the planets that will be their ultimate homes. Imagine some of those cultures breaking down, and then inject a set of aliens who come visiting. Now visualize all of this with Freer and Flint's patented twisted sense of humor, from collaborations like Pyramid Scheme. You'll like this book.

Walt Boyes
Associate Editor
Jim Baen's Universe
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By G. Tansey on September 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dave Freer comes up with a novel idea in this new book; combining several old SF tropes into one concept. Once again, this is character driven SF, with a hard science background and plenty of good dialogue.

Anyone who likes to read will enjoy this book, and if you already know Dave's work, you'll really like it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the best "hard" science fiction book I've read in a long time. It takes the eminently plausible concept of a generation ship, and solves the two major issues with it:

1. How do you keep the artificial biospheres going.
2. Why would anybody want to spend their lives, and the lives of their descendants for generations to come, in such a limited environment.

This emphasis is what you'd expect from a book written by a biologist and a historian, which is what Dave Freer and Eric Flint are by training. It makes this book much more interesting than previous books in the generation ship sub-genre. That, by itself, would make this book worth reading.

However, as an added bonus, we have Dave Freer's zany humor. The story is told from the perspective of an alien, going through human societies populated mostly by what mainstream human society considered worthless losers. This makes for very interesting encounters. Here's one you can read without spoiling the book:

He was a good hunter. By uThani standards, too good. Too good to be unmarried anyway. It was fun being chased by several women, but sometimes the consequences of letting more than one catch you . . .
Caught up with you. Especially if your name meant hunter-whose-balls-are-bigger-than-his-brains. So he'd gone off on a hunting trip, a long hunting trip.

If you like hard science fiction, read this book. If you don't like hard science fiction because you don't particularly like physics, read this book. If you don't like hard science fiction, but like humor, read this book.
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