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The Collapsium Mass Market Paperback – November 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (November 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055358443X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553584431
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Wil McCarthy is a certified science fiction treasure. A real-life rocket scientist with a gorgeous writing style and rapier wit to boot, McCarthy continually sets a very high standard for good old-fashioned space stories. In The Collapsium, McCarthy builds on a lovely novella to tell the far-future story of two scientists entrenched in a rivalry that may save, or destroy, the solar system. Tamra Lutui, the Queen of Sol, brings together the brilliant enemies in order to prevent the Ring Collapsiter, a vast ring of strange matter, from falling into the sun. So it is that Bruno de Towaji, inventor of collapsium--crystals made up of tiny black holes that can transport matter instantaneously across vast distances--must find a way to work with Marlon Sykes, who came up with the Ring to change the nature of communication forever. McCarthy makes liberal use of his extensive science knowledge, especially when he describes the nature of high-concept physics ideas like collapsium or wellstone (programmable matter!), but luckily, his literary skills are up to the task of moving the narrative along, keeping us in suspense, and creating characters who are worth reading about. His descriptions of the physical phenomena surrounding the artifacts of high-energy material manipulation are deft and fascinating:

A handful of collapsons in low orbit had become--seemingly overnight--a nested cage of fractured spacetimes, one within the other like wooden babushka dolls, magical ones, straining at the very underpinnings of universal law. And orbiting right overhead!

Towaji and Sykes labor to save the Queendom and outwit the saboteur trying to wreck the Ring, all the while burdened by a byzantine and bureaucratic social structure with demands for party appearances, verbal sparring, and quick thinking. While those of us who aren't physics mavens might quail at some of the terms and ideas McCarthy casually uses, it's his characters and story that make The Collapsium a book to savor, a complex and layered story in the grand tradition of science fiction's masters. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Even when faced with multiple disasters created by mankind's over-reaching itself, the future as robotics expert McCarthy (Bloom) sees it is a wondrous place, filled with interesting scientific problems and intelligent people eager to tackle those problems. Foremost among the titans of the future is Bruno de Towaji, a scientific genius so exceptionally rich he has built his own miniature planet. There he performs experiments on collapsium, a crystalline matter composed of black holes that allow for the "bending and twisting of spacetime to his personal whims." He has been at this for many years of his immortal life, until he is called out of his happy hermitage by his former lover, Her Majesty Tamra Lutui, the Virgin Queen of All Things. Her scientists, led by Declarant Sykes, have built a collapsium ring around the sun that is now dangerously unstable; Bruno's expertise is needed to save the day. Bruno is used to having people need too much of him. Yet as the story progresses, what with murder and treachery being uncovered and the problems the queendom faces growing ever more complex, Bruno grows nobly into his role of both scientific and heroic savior. While there are amusing attributes and quirks to McCarthy's characters (such as Queen Tamra's virginity being a renewable asset), the greater pleasures of this novel lie in its hard science extrapolations. McCarthy plays up his technical strengths by providing a useful appendix and glossary for the mathematically inclined reader. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The characters are more well developed than in some hard scifi, the science side of it was well presented.
milkfilledandroid
Highly recommended for McCarthy fans and anyone else who enjoys hard science fiction stories with decent plots and good characterization.
Arthur W. Jordin
Maccarthy's physics is solid, while his speculations on future physics span the full range of plausibility, from "maybe" to "no way!"
Y. Alekseyev

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on April 17, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Maybe it's because I'm an old f**t, but I think a lot of reviewers have missed a key theme of this book.
I'll quickly mention points made by others before I center in on the immortality & "meaning of life" themes I've found here.
First, this is hard science fiction, but if like me you're no scientist, there is a way to read it and get the gist of the science without getting hopelessly confused.
Secondly, while the second half of the book is more serious with bad things happening, there's a playful perspective to the entire book that can be compared to fairy tales, or to "Tom Swift" solutions, or to glorious "pulp" science-fiction of the '30's and '40's. This might put off some readers and charm others.
However you react to the hard science and/or the allusions to
more faniful genres, don't overlook what is being said about immortality.
The novel's protagonist and antagonist are both among the first to embark into immortal life and are reacting to such a life's implications. As if immortality isn't enough to deal with, there's also the faxing of people creating copies of individuals who have the memories and personalities of the originals but go into divergent paths.
The principal character, after a long period of being the Queen's "Philander", has become a hermit buried in endless scientific research which will hopefully enable him to see the end of time. His opposite number, also for a time the Queen's "Philander", has a similar goal, but due to his immortality has become what could be thought of as a souless entity, with little regard for humanity.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Y. Alekseyev on January 8, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Collapsium is the start of a series of novels that follow in its wake. Curiously, the opening act is actually far worse than what is to follow: "Wellstone," "Lost in Translation," and "To Crush the Moon" provide both better entertainment and better exploration of the implications of the marvelous technology that Maccarthy dreams up. So let us be clear on what Collapsium is and what it is not:

1) It IS a great appendix to reading the aforementioned novels. Besides having a scientific (sci-fi) appendix of its own that explains the (hypothetical) physics behind the technology, Collapsium is really kind of an appendix in its own right, and a decent enough reference to backgrounds of characters that are more fully developed in later novels.

2) It IS a book full of imaginative ideas. Sometimes overly so. Maccarthy's physics is solid, while his speculations on future physics span the full range of plausibility, from "maybe" to "no way!" - but all of it is imaginative, interesting, and good fun to think about.

3) It is NOT a particularly good novel in its own right. Really, the book consists of three somewhat independent and weak novellas: though ordered chronologically they do not share the coherence of ordinary chapters in a single book, and each presents an adventure of its own. The plot (or plots) are not all that engrossing, mainly because they all have a very simple "hero vs disaster" or "hero vs villain + disaster" linearity to them. And since these types of plotlines invariably end with a triumph of our hero, the intrigue is, for the most part, not there. Finally, as other reviewers have mentioned, the character development is somewhat lackluster.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ben on February 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a story with fabulous science, easily the equal of anything Larry Niven or Stephen Baxter have served up, or better. You can't swing a dead cat in this book without hitting another mind-blowing concept. Yet McCarthy's style is not the stiff deadpan of a NASA flight controller (which he is), but the romping satire of a Neal Stephenson or Salman Rushdie. It's an eerie combination. The language is deceptively simpler and more casual than "Bloom" or "Murder in the Solid State", but hiding behind it are layers of technical and human detail that lend this book the feel of a genuine classic.
The world and characters are quirky and compelling. Never mind that the sun is going to be crushed into a black hole, I wanted to live here anyway. The author's love of the place is obvious and infectious. The story moves from court politics to murder to battles in space, heady sf fare with a hard strange twist, but the opening and closing scenes which bookend this action set it apart, as a work of genuine thought and depth. I've read it twice in six months, and still want more.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Collapsium is McCarthy's best story to date. The story is lively and entertaining, with lots of new technology adequately explained for us non-physicists. I found the main character, Bruno, to be a more human and likeable protagonist than McCarthy's prior protagonists. All in all, an excellent story for readers who enjoy hard science fiction.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alan Deikman on January 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most original works of SF that I have seen in a while. Of all the stories that deal with the subject of black holes, I don't think it ever occured to anyone before that they can be mere tools in the hands of humans. What would that mean for human endeavors and history?
McCarthy creates a world where this does happen, and it so happens that a public works project goes awry, the consequence would be the death of the sun! Oops. It would be a spoiler to tell you what happens.
There are some disturbing aspects to this world that arises from very specualtive technology. For example, they have "fax" machines that can transmit a human from one place to another, a form of travel. But the device can also be used to create a complete duplicate of that person. With memories and everything, the duplicate has no idea that they are not the original. The problem is that the law is that the duplicate does not have any legal rights whatsoever. Imagine an enemy being able to steal a copy of you and torture that copy for their own amusement, then dispose of and then go get another. Would that bother you? Yikes.
Very much worth it.
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