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The Black Sun Hardcover – March, 1997

2.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

At 89 years of age, the "Dean of Modern Science Fiction" must know something the rest of us don't, because he's still writing wonderful books. This time Jack Williamson turns his talents to Project Starseed, humanity's ambitious attempt to populate the universe by sending out 99 "wavecraft," faster-than-light ships that provide a one-way ride to the first star they encounter . . . sometimes. Luck is with the crew of ship 99, for their craft comes out of its waveform as planned, but the star they've found is dead, and the planet below them has been lifeless for 1 billion years. Until now.

From Library Journal

After Project Starseed's 99th and last colonizing ship leaves a ravaged Earth to find a habitable planet, it is dropped by faster-than-light quantum wave technology at a frozen planet orbiting a dead sun. Stowaway Carlos Mondragon; Dr. Rima Virili; her son, Kip; daughter Day; and the rest of the crew find themselves stranded with a crazed captain intent on leaving the planet. Commanded by mysterious beads found in an excavation, Day and two scientists trek across the frozen wastelands toward the polar continent in search of escape. Master craftsman Williamson (Demon Moon, Tor, 1994) evokes terror and uncertainty on the frozen planet in this highly recommended adventure.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (March 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312859376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312859374
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,561,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kenneth Umbach on August 18, 1997
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought The Black Sun because I wondered what Jack Williamson would be producing after 70 years as a science fiction writer. What I found was a story that, aside from a few words and phrases, would have been successful in the 1930s. (Indeed it could have been WRITTEN in the 1930's, put aside, and updated for publication in 1997.) Although the jacket blurb characterizes the book as of the "hard science" school of science fiction, that is silly. Williamson concocts a (typical for the genre) gimmick, using the phrase "quantum wave," to get the odd assemblage of unlikely and basically cardboard cutout characters to a distant world, and then sets the characters loose to interact in an alien setting -- interact with each other, with the setting, and with ... well, I will leave that for the reader to discover.

Despite those implicit reservations, this is an entertaining book of its type. If you like space opera and do not mind the numerous unlikelihoods that go with it, and especially if you like the sort of thing that Williamson and his colleagues were writing in the 1930s and 1940s, you will probably enjoy this book.

The characters (or perhaps the author) have an unseemly obsession with food, dining at astonishingly frequent intervals on quantities of food that one can scarcely imagine having been fitted into their craft, but despite that, the book is a nice diversion and a pleasant trip back to The Science Fiction of Yore. My rating of 8 reflects the pleasure that I derived from the comfortable sense of old-time SF (I LOVED that stuff when I was a kid), the capable movement of the story toward an intriguing conclusion, and the general readability of Williamson's prose. Those who are not serious fans of the genre might want to wait for the paperback edition.
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By A Customer on January 20, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Jack Williamson's 51st novel is a classic science fiction tale combining high adventure and alien contact set on a far-distant world. A mixed group of 100 humans are hurled into space as the 99th and last ship of the StarSeed project. The people on board are using a type of wave propulsion that can only be stopped by an encounter with a massive gravitational field, so there is no way to know how far or how long they've been traveling. When they do finally stop, in what seems like an instant to them, they are at first unable to determine exactly what caused the end of their journey, as there is nothing apparent in their immediate vicinity. Finally they are able to detect the black sun of the title, a burned-out husk of a star. They also find a planet orbiting the star where they are forced to land, since their ship is not equipped to journey to another, more suitable destination.

On their way to touchdown, they detect strange, seemingly unnatural light signals coming from the bitterly cold, glaciated planet. Upon landing, more mysteries unfold as the crew discovers the remains of an ancient race that appears to have died out as much as a billion years before. In the meantime, the crew is dividing into two camps, the first led by the disgraced former head of the StarSeed project who took over as captain shortly before departure. This group is only interested in leading as comfortable a life as possible while futilely attempting to find a way to another star. The other group is composed of scientists and others who are determined to explore the planet and unlock its secrets in an attempt to find a way to build a new life where they've landed, possibly as the last remnants of the human race left in the universe.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book in my closet when I didn't have anything else to read at the moment. I should have left it there. It looks like an interesting story of interstellar colonization and adventure on a new world. However, it fails pretty miserably for several reasons.

First, the idea that people are going to sign up in droves to get on these seed ships that "may" take them somewhere if they're very lucky just wasn't at all believable. Then, if you try to look past that, the author makes it impossible by making the characters seem as if they didn't know what they were getting into. Then, once they got there, the story focuses on silly conflicts between the colonists and a vague alien presence on the world that is never explained very well. This story just never went anywhere. The most interesting part was a dream about the aliens that gave us the most background about them, but it wasn't enough. There was not enough attention paid to details, or enough tension in the plot to make the story at all worthwhile. The characters also weren't anyone you could get very interested in. They were poorly developed and their interactions didn't seem at all realistic.

I wouldn't recommend this book, and unless I see something that looks really good, I'll probably avoid anything by Williamson in the future.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Given what I'd hear about this Williamson character, I had fairly high hopes as I began reading this book - hopes that were dashed within the first chapter.

The characters are so ill-conceived, I was surprised to learn that the author, Williamson, was an aged (learned, even?) college professor. Across the board, the characters are so wooden and 1-dimensional (not even 2-dimensional!), I half expected the author to be a 16 year old kid. It's as if Williamson, before writing out this...book...sketched a little phrase-bank for each character, and then drew from that whenever it was a character's turn to say something. Mondragon: "Quien sabe?" Rima: "I don't trust him." Daby: "Me Me [stuffed animal] needs me!"

These characters (caricatures, more accurately) don't even act like humans. The act like plot devices. It's downright insulting.

To make matters worse, there must be at least 5 shrugs in each inane exchange between the doofuses populating this black hole of a book. I don't know if I've shrugged three times in the last 6 months; Williamson has someone shrugging every other dang page. Maybe that's the only way people communicate non-verbally where he comes from, but I doubt it.

Black Sun is the worst science fiction book I've read, and the 2nd worst book I've read in years. Don't try it for yourself. I would give negative-stars if that were possible. Alas, 1 is the least I can give.
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