- File Size: 1751 KB
- Print Length: 321 pages
- Publisher: Venture Press (March 26, 2017)
- Publication Date: March 26, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B06XW8TJH8
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #911,071 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Ancient Heavens (War of Powers Book 7) Kindle Edition
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I love classic science fiction. Some of my favorite authors include Heinlein, Clarke, and Norton; and more recently Jack McDevitt and Robert Sawyer. Do NOT foist off on me, a "war story" clothed in futuristic technology. Don't throw in so much invented techno-jargon that the plot line is completely lost. And by no means should dragons, wizards, or other fantasy creatures make an appearance!!
Classic science fiction should be the interpolation of current trends into the future. Satisfying science fiction projects technological trends into the future in the service of a good storyline (e.g. the recent novel and film, "The Martian"); or speculates on social trends for either future or alien races (e.g. Leigh Brackett's classic "The Starmen of Llyrdis"). GREAT science fiction does both, while also presenting a storyline that can fill us with wonder and hope; giving us a glimpse of a future that could be. I would rate Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" as one of the GREATS. Since the the 1980's, such hard sci-fi has been as rare as water in the desert, and this book by Robert Vardeman was a huge satisfying drink to my thirsty imagination!!
I could tell that this story was not originally published in 2017, but not as readily as many other works of fiction; which can often be identified down to the year they were written by the technology (e.g. types of cellular phones or computers). This novel was not overly specific about such technology, thus avoiding being so dated that it is "obsolete" speculation. [You know what I mean...Heinlein's early novels have his spacefarers still using slide rules!!] I guessed it was originally written around 1992, based on the detailed description of a fictional exoplanet (extra-solar planetary bodies were first confirmed to exist, in 1992). After finishing the digital version of the book, I looked to see when the original publication date was: 1989. However, the story holds up remarkably well today; not just because overly-detailed descriptions of technology haven't made it obsolete; but because Vardeman correctly interpolated many trends that are even stronger today that they were in 1989. For instance, the power and influence of multi-national corporations. Sadly, yes, they've moved exactly in the direction he speculated in this novel. And another correct interpolation was the near-cessation of space exploration, as we humans choose instead to "turn inwards" with technology that allows more and more intimate interaction with diversions of our individual choice (virtual reality). Indeed, private companies with the wealth and will to put into space exploration [e.g. Virgin Galactic and SpaceX] seem to be our only current hope of continuing to push into the frontier of space, just as this author speculated.
I really enjoyed the character development in this novel, and the possibilities allowed by time dilation (the difference between elapsed time on Earth vs. elapsed time on a spacecraft traveling at near lightspeed), so that the biography of the main character -and the change in human societies he witnessed- was able to stretch across several centuries. I loved that the "terraforming" technology wasn't just a single chapter or portion of the book, but was interwoven into the plot right up to the last pages, as the planet "evolved" from a dead rock into a living biome. [Why are hydrogen airships dangerous on Earth, but not on Nerth...the exoplanet of the novel? Very clever!] There were plot twists right up to the end, due to skillful weaving of minor plotlines back into the story. The author even came up with an adequate way to sidestep the problem of newer, faster starships catching up to those launched earlier, for which I applaud him.
One of the only trends not predicted in this book was the genetics technology that has burgeoned since the mid-1990's. This book describes in some detail the cryogenic devices used to "freeze" space-farers for revival at some future time, so they do not age nor use valuable resources. In 2017, I think the more likely interpolation is that -if we ever travel to other stars- we will use DNA methylation to retard senescence of human cells, or graft genes from long-lived species with low metabolisms, e.g. Galapagos tortoises. In that way, the same generation of humans who started out to the stars, will reach them. But in 1989 (when "Ancient Heavens" was first published), the rapid advances in understanding and mapping genes (let alone manipulating them) was not even on the horizon.
I don't want to give any more away, so I will just say that if you like any of the authors I cited, you should really enjoy the world-building AND the social speculation contained in this novel. For me, this book has been added to my short list of truly GREAT science fiction stories.
Having said that, the digital upload left a little to be desired. In what I assume is an error introduced by digital scanning, there were some bizarre typos in the digital version. For instance, throughout the entire book, there are mentions of something rendered as "corn links". I was wondering "WTH is a corn link?"; until I realized in context, it had to be "COM link". A human proofreader, familiar with sci fi jargon, would have been a wonderful thing, after this book was rendered into digital format. Get past that, and enjoy the richly-envisioned future laid out in this book.
The love-triangle-rape-'romance' of the scientist's (plot/conveniently now adult) daughter to her father seems to be included more to shock and titillate than to drive the story properly, and then you have the resulting offspring thereby and their descendants...who just kind of exist. Add in a couple random trips to and from Earth and some erratic corporate espionage/plague, and the melange is complete.
If all this seems ad-hoc and slapdash, that's the general sense I get from 80% of the 'plot' of this book. It has some good ideas, but WAY too much is going on at once without being successfully woven together.